Many of the cancer patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital are here for months at a time and far from the comforts of home – including the presence of their much-loved family pets. To make matters worse, these patients often need to be in isolation due to their compromised immune systems, cutting them off from the social support that can be a lifeline during a long course of treatment.
Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem is one such patient. Maga spent more than seven months at Children’s in 2011 waiting for a compatible bone marrow donor, eventually undergoing a transplant. A 16-year-old cat-lover, back at Children’s for post-transplant treatment, Maga is confined to her room and hasn’t seen her beloved cat, Merry, in nearly a month.
The staff at Children’s decided to do something about that. While they couldn’t bring Merry to Maga, they did the next best thing. A call to Children’s Facebook fans to post their favorite cat photos for Maga sparked an overwhelming response: fans sent more than 3,000 photos along with comments and heartfelt get well wishes.
Maga, touched by the outpouring of support, responded with …”You guys remind me that there is so much good in the world, and it just makes me feel so much better, and connected. I can’t tell you how it feels sometimes, feeling disconnected and cut off from the world, and then with something like cat pictures bringing me back. Thank you all for your kind words, and well wishing. Its means more than you can ever know. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…”
With more than enough photos, staff got to work and created the Cat Immersion Project. Using the photos fans sent and adding some creative magic with sound, sheets, and projectors, they created a virtual cat cocoon, making Merry seem just a little bit closer.