Bucket List Foundation Aids Terminal Patients

By: 
Anthony Lim
Rosa fulfilled her bucket list dream by marrying her beloved.

For the people of Long Beach, Memorial Medical Center Foundation’s The Bucket List Project (BLP) has provided the opportunity for adults with life-limiting illnesses and resources a chance to achieve their dreams through this wish fulfillment program. The inspiration of BLP came from one of their noteworthy patients and Long Beach resident Kenny Kozikowski.

Kenny was diagnosed with stage four metastatic colorectal cancer in December 2011 and encourage the hospital to start the program. He was admitted into the Palliative Care Program under the care of the Nilesh Vora, MD, director of Palliative Care at Long Beach Memorial. Palliative Care was a medical specialty that focuses on enhancing a person’s quality of life by providing relief for symptoms. The program wasn’t reserved for just the mentally ill, instead it focuses as an end-of-life plan.

Upon being Vora’s first patient, Kenny’s wish was granted, as he visited a recording of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” with a limousine and VIP passes before his death in May 2013. While there were similar programs that fulfilled wishes for children; Kenny noted there was no such program for adults.

According to an interview from the Patch website, Kenny stated that a lot of adults like him, who have productive lives and have put others before themselves. Then, they face the reality of having a new diagnosis and push their dreams aside. Kenny wanted to use project as way to positively impact others.

In the annual report, Vora said “Kenny’s final wish was to leave a legacy and let people know he was still there, happily living until the last moments of his life.” The doctor was surprised that Kenny took the time to make his own bucket list. “I always encourage my patients with incurable disease to make a list of things they always wanted to do and experience in their lifetime – a bucket list. It’s a difficult thing to think about, so many don’t make a list,” Dr. Vora said.

Following the completion of Kenny’s bucket list, the Palliative Care team worked with the staff at the Memorial Medical Center Foundation in order to establish funding and support for this endeavor. The creation of BLP came from the allocation of money and collaborative efforts of Nilesh Vora, MD, Christian Lu, MD, Jennifer Park, LSCW, Michelle Becker, NP, and all Palliative Care members.” They have raised more than $15,000 from mixers held at Palliative team members’ homes and other fundraising efforts (this is not including the non-monetary gift and their sponsors).

In the annual report, Vora said “There are many foundations like this out for kids, but none really available for adults to have their wishes granted. However, what we’re building here at the Long Beach Memorial is very important to us and our patients.”

The program has fulfilled five wishes for the following patients: Crystal was given a smile-inducing dance party with actor Channing Tatum and his wife, Jenna, as well as two choreographers; Andrea flew to Mexico in order to see her family; Rosas finally married her beloved with surrounding family and friends; Teri finally sailed with his racing yacht and his full crew, including a delicious lunch to end his perfect day; Patricia enjoyed an evening of delicious king crab legs.

The program will continue to provide patients with meaningful and shared experiences.

Long Beach Memorial’s wish fulfillment program only serves the LA and Orange Counties, but there are other bucket list programs that serve similar purposes throughout the U.S and world. For example, Fill the Your Bucket List foundation from North Carolina grant wishes for adults with cancer by providing financial support. Another is the Bucket List Foundation from Phoenix, Arizona grants wishes for adults battling cancer by creating awareness for a forgotten generation.

Previously, LB Memorial’s BLP held their annual BLP Celebration on Oct. 21, 2017. They welcomed families and supporters to an evening of cocktail and dining, unforgettable entertainment and a silent auction. For more information, check out their website: https://www.thebucketlistproject.com/

tony@beachcomber.news

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