When you’re spending days on end in a hospital bed, it’s the little things that can make all the difference. That’s what Jess Moran learned when she spent 30 consecutive days in the hospital in 2014 after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Every day, Moran, then 25, would receive several cards, most from her family and friends, but many from people she had never met.
“In the morning I was typically by myself, so I would wait until breakfast and open five or six cards every day,” she says. “It was something that I really enjoyed, and it makes you feel like somebody is thinking about you when you’re at a very low point.”
Her most memorable card came from a woman she had never met – a friend’s boyfriend’s mother – who wrote inside, “You are strong, you are loved, and you will get through this.” The saying soon became Moran’s personal mantra while in the hospital, and remains a go-to refrain for when she’s feeling down.
“I was lucky that my family and boyfriend were there when I was in the hospital, but not everyone has people visiting all the time,” says Moran, who spent more than 100 days on floor 7D at Brigham and Women’s Hospital throughout 2014. With that in mind, she decided in early 2015 to start bringing cards to other cancer patients staying at the hospital. What started as Moran and her boyfriend, Mike, writing cards has spiraled into something much larger, with Moran delivering approximately 1,000 “Smile Cards” to patients in the past year.
In addition to Moran’s friends and family, students at Mount St. Mary Academy and Auburn Village School in New Hampshire as well as the Broadmeadow Elementary School in Needham, Mass. regularly make cards for patients. Moran delivers the cards routinely to the nurses on 7D, who read through each one to make sure they’re given to appropriate patients.
“The nurses really know the patients, so with them reading the cards and picking who gets what, it’s a little more personalized,” explains Moran, who says dropping off the cards serves double duty, as she gets to visit and reconnect with her care team.
“Jess is incredible, with an infectious spirit, and has managed to turn her experience into something so positive,” says Kristen Parker, RN, BSN, one of Moran’s nurses on 7D. “When patients are having particularly rough days, or spending lots of time in solitude, these cards really help to brighten their day.”
This holiday season, Moran received an influx of cards from schools and her former colleagues, who created beautifully hand-crafted cards with inspirational messages for patients. While homemade cards are encouraged, Moran stresses that there are no requirements or “cookie cutter” cards; it can be a simple message of hope or strength, or a personal greeting.
“My hope is that most people get a card and feel, even for a second, that somebody is thinking of them.”
View some of the Smile Cards in the slideshow below:
If you are interested in contributing to the Smile Card initiative, you may mail cards to Jess Moran at 2 Webster St. Somerville, MA, 02145. You can learn more about the project on Moran’s blog, The Inspiration Initiative.