The UCLA Health 3 Wishes Program has fulfilled more than 5586 wishes for 1642 patients.
Wishes are most often small and simple, such as playing the patient’s favorite music, providing the patient with a non-hospital blanket, allowing the patient to spend their final moment outdoors, giving the patient a taste of their favorite food or drink, decorating the room with the patient’s favorite memorabilia, and providing the bereaved family with keepsakes (i.e. thumbprint keychains, word-clouds, framed EKGs).
More elaborate wishes have included arranging for a live musical performance or orchestrating a wedding for an engaged couple. Here are some of the patient stories.
(For the stories with identifiable information, we have obtained consent from the family to share their story/image)
SMH 4WICU: A Reverse Funeral (June 2023)
Michael Harris unfortunately spent a significant portion of his last year of a life in the hospital. But as a result, many healthcare workers got to know his warm heart and friendly demeanor. When the SMH ICU team (including nurses Celeste and Natalie, social worker Terri, chaplain Chunho) realized he was approaching the end of life, they wanted to make his final days special for him and his family. Mr. Harris asked for a “reverse funeral”, a celebration of his life with his loved ones BEFORE he died. Danielle (3WP Project Manager) sat down with him to learn more about his vision and specifics of food/drinks for his family and friends. He wanted to ensure there was diet soda for his elderly mother and plenty of food for everyone to enjoy. Dr. Neville (3WP Medical Director) posted on Twitter about the restaurant-style rainbow tortilla chips he requested and a tortilleria agreed to make and donate them for this special event. About 14 friends and family members, including his 90yo mother and sister (Joyce Harris) gathered to commemorate Mr. Harris’s life. The gathering was complete with chicken wings, chips, macaroni salad, soda, his favorite cake, and lots of love and laughter. Mr. Harris later remarked that this was one of the best days of his life
RR 4ICU: Disneyland comes to the ICU (April 2023)
Jennifer knew the young patient’s clinical condition was tenuous and reached out to Dr. Neville and Danielle, suggesting that we filled his final days with the things he loved, which was: Disneyland, Yoda, and Rihanna. With the decorations Dr. Neville brought, Hedy, Akop, and other team members transformed his room into a Star Wars/Disneyland dream. Danielle reached out to the Pure Imagination Company and they graciously volunteered their Mickey, Minnie, and party host for a bedside visit. The characters, family members, and healthcare workers danced to Rihanna music and the room was filled with laughter and tears. The family had wanted to take the patient to Disneyland for his birthday and were so grateful that the 3WP team has made “his wish come true”.
RR 4ICU: A special Valentine’s Day Date (February 2023)
On too much oxygen support to transport safely home, his priority was to have quality time with his family. It was just a few days before Valentine’s Day and the nurses wanted to do something special for him and his wife—a romantic Valentine’s Day luncheon. Dina helped coordinate the surprise luncheon for the patient and contacted multiple staff to get the needed items ready. Yuhan and Sherry came in on the weekend to help make it happen. Sherry picked up his favorite foods, including salmon, mix veggies, and mashed potato(after asking his wife), and Yuhan brought decorations. Nancy and Mark brought him outside for fresh air (as one of his wishes) and while he was away, multiple nursing staff decorated the room and set the table for their date. It is not often that a hospital meal is described as romantic, but with effort and love, the ICU team made it possible for a dying man and his wife.
RR 4ICU: A musical tribute (January 2023)
Adriana's mother Dionne co-created this song for her daughter during a 3 wishes music therapy session and selected Adriana's favorite song "With You" by Chris Brown for the lyric substitution. Adriana's heartbeat is looped throughout the song, serving as the rhythm and drums. Dionne and Adriana's sons also received teddy bears with Adriana's heartbeat and her heartbeat legacy song. Dionne stated that her and Adriana's sons will ‘cherish the bears and the song forever’ and described Adriana's heartbeat legacy song as ‘the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.’
RR 8ICU: Lyrics to remember (January 2023)
Patricia and Jay had a wonderful life together, and our program was glad to be able to capture a glimpse of that life with this personalized song. Our music therapist, Jenna, in conjunction with Patricia, created this song where Jay’s heartbeat serves as the background drums and the rhythm is to Pachelbel Winter Canon in D. Patricia tells us fondly, “The lyric video shows the love we had for each other and the life we shared together. Jay’s lyric video has helped in my grieving process and will be a very meaningful long-term remembrance. Gathering the photos reminded me of all the fun we had together instead of Jay’s end of life”
SMH 4SW: A Bedside Wedding (December 2022)
The 4SW team is always grateful to be a part of our patients cancer journey’s. One of our patients transitioned to hospice care and requested only to be married to his long-term girlfriend while in the hospital. Along with the Palliative Care and Social Work teams, the 4SW nursing staff came together to create a special ceremony for our patient, which included an officiant at bedside, decorating the room with string lights and a hearts banner, granting the number of requested visitors to be present, and providing a beautiful cake and flowers to aid the celebration. The patient, now wife, and family were grateful for the teams efforts and eternal memories created in these lasting moments.
RR 4ICU: Heartbeat song (November 2022)
The patient was only 50 years old and was dying of devastating infection. Her loving family was always at the bedside and remained so incredibly grateful for our care. They were a very close-knit family and only hoped to maximize their time with her. It was our privilege to care for her and provide 3WP for her and her family. Wish 1: heartbeat recording and music therapy, Wish 2: see her dog, Wish 3: go outside. Music therapist, Jenna Bollard, brought her guitar, sang at the bedside, and with the family, wrote lyrics for this song. The patient loved the outdoors, gardening, Fleetwood Mac. The “drums” in the background are the sounds of her heartbeat.
RR 4ICU: A Special Offering (October 2022)
This patient loved the Vincent Bridge and the ocean. Yuhan took the patient's fingerprints for our volunteer artist to paint. Once the family received the painting they displayed it on their offrenda for Dia de los Muertos. On this day, family members honor their deceased with ofrendas which may consist of photographs, bread, other foods, flowers, toys and other symbolic offerings.
RR 6ICU: A Birthday Celebration (April 2022)
This patient was celebrating a birthday and 6ICU made the environment very festive. Cristina, Nina, Laura, Lottie, Giselle, Kim, Lynden, Nery, Nida, Lauren (RNs) and Kat and Sherry (Unit Directors) truly went above and beyond to bring the patient’s and family’s wishes to life. There were balloons, decoration and even a homemade birthday cake. All the nurses staffed during dayshift rallied together and came by the patient's room with LED candles and sang happy birthday with the cake. They gently left the candles in the patient's room after celebrating the patient. This served as a physical reminder of how much love and care was in the room and was a sweet moment for the nurses and family.
RR 4ICU: A Special Teddy Bear (December 2021)
This patient had a beloved teddy bear named “Candy Marshmallow” that the ICU team became familiar with because he always kept it at his bedside. Right before intubation when the patient was hypoxic and decompensating, he placed the bear’s paws together and prayed with his mother. This was an incredibly heart-wrenching moment for everyone who witnessed it. He was intubated and on life support for a few weeks; the bear and his mother never left his side. When the patient was at the end of life, his nurses, Kristin and Noelle, wanted to support his family as much as possible. They obtained his fingerprints and Jade (volunteer artist) used a picture of the teddy bear to create this wonderful painting for his family.
RR 4ICU: Hawaiian Heritage and Volleyball (November 2021)
This patient’s family honored his life by celebrating his Hawaiian heritage and legacy as a volleyball player and coach. They brought in paint, volleyballs, clay for thumbprints and Hawaiian attire. Desiree (RN), Jessica (RN) and Kristen (RN) used the paint to make handprints on his volleyballs. Jessica (RN) also painted hearts as a symbol of the love he embodied. One of these volleyballs was given to his granddaughter to serve at her first game of the season. The nurses dressed the patient in his Hawaiian shirt and the family put a lei on him to rest. The family was also given EKG and fingerprint mementos to carry with them.
RR 6ICU: Tunnel of Love (March 2021)
The 6ICU’s “Tunnel of Love” was created during COVID to surround their end of life (EOL) patients with love and beauty. It is a simple idea using a string clip lights and paper hearts, which honors the EOL journey. The premise of the Tunnel of Love is to surround dying patients with love, especially those who did not have family or loved ones around. The lights drape over the hospital bed and hearts fill the air. The nurses on 6ICU have provided this heartfelt wish to several EOL patients, regardless of whether there is family by the bedside.
RR 4ICU: Mariachi Band Outdoor Show (March 2021)
Unlike many of our patients, this end-of-life patient was able to vocalize his last wishes. He was transitioning to hospice and wanted to enjoy a final Mariachi band performance. Dr. Neville obtained infection prevention permission to provide a socially distanced performance. Danielle (3WP project manager) coordinated with the Mariachi band to perform on the terrace. With the help of Jason (RN), Mark (RN), and Yuhan (CNS), the patient was moved outside to the terrace in a wheelchair, where he listened and sang along to his favorite songs. The patient’s sister also came and sang along. Coordinating such an event was not easy during a pandemic, but the look on the patient’s face as he enjoyed the music was priceless.
SMH 4CWICU: A 3WP Family (January – February 2021)
In January, Genevieve (RN) provided a family whose mom was dying from COVID-19 with 3WP keepsakes: fingerprint keychains and a word cloud. About three weeks later, the daughter emailed the 3WP team and asked, “Would you please, please do something similar for us with dad?” Sadly, her father was now also dying from COVID-19. Danielle reached out to Natalie (RN) to obtain fingerprints and collect words for the word cloud. Danielle created a joint EKG keepsake that captured both parents’ heartbeats. Mr. and Mrs. Delgadillo were married for 51 years, had three children, eight grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Family was the most important thing to them and it was clear that their life and marriage was the embodiment of love. In their honor, their children have created a permanent altar in their home that displayed their pictures and the 3WP keepsakes (this will be “Mom and Dad’s special spot”).
RR 7CCU: A Mother and Beach Lover (January 2021)
In spite of having heart problems, this patient lived her life to the fullest, determined not to let her heart condition stand in the way of achieving her dreams. She lived and loved as a daughter, a wife, and mother. At the end of life, her doctors and nurses got to know her well. They learned that she loved the beach and the ocean. Mary (RN) collected fingerprints that our volunteer artist turned into a beautiful ocean scene.
RR 4ICU: A wedding ceremony outside (October 2020)
Given her advanced cancer, this patient had decided to pursue comfort care and go on hospice. Her son recently got engaged and the family wished for her to be part of the wedding. The ICU team put together a very intimate wedding ceremony on the terrace. The bride and groom were dressed for the occasion. Marcus (RN) placed a warm blanket over the patient and she was able to hold her son’s hand as he recited his vows. Teresa (RN) and other nurses used sheets and IV poles to create an arch and table to display the beautiful flowers and cake that Danielle brought. Both the MICU and the palliative care team gathered for the ceremony. The groom’s sister played music and his cousin officiated. The couple toasted with apple cider and cut the cake. The patient, who was the groom’s mother, was right there to see it all and even gave a wave to the healthcare team.
RR 4ICU: Keeping their mother close with tattoos of her EKG (August 2020)
One of our nurses created a beautiful EKG keepsake and fingerprint keepsakes to give to this patient’s children. The EKG symbolizes that that their mother’s heart will always be with us. Her three children turned her EKG into beautiful tattoos. Each tattoo is a little different but serves as a constant reminder of their mother. Her children were also able to use the fingerprint keepsakes to create a beautiful plaque. The patient’s daughter was especially grateful for the fingerprints, as the funeral home was not taking fingerprints due to COVID.
RR 4ICU: COVID-19 hits too close to home (August 2020)
One of our MICU nurse’s mother was in our ICU; and unfortunately, we were losing the battle against COVID-19 after nearly 3 months of aggressive critical care. Jessica (RN), Yuhan (CNS) and Dr. Neville helped honor her life with some very special wishes. A producer and editor worked with the family to create a Celebration of Life video that included photos, songs and interviews that honored the patient’s life. This video was played in her room multiple times during her final days. Liz (volunteer) created a beautiful painting of purple flowers using the patient’s thumbprints (purple was her favorite color). The nursing staff not only created a hand-mold of Cindy and her mom holding hands but also purchased a stand for it to be displayed on.
SMH 5NW: Bringing the great outdoors to the hospital room (July 2020)
Geriatric ward nurses, Valerie and Dawn, learned this patient loved the outdoors, specifically the mountains. They hung up mountain scenes around the room. While Angela (chaplain services) was massaging the patient’s hand, Dawn and Danielle also set up the project to bring the stars, moon, and sky into the room.
RR 4ICU: Painting with Fingerprints (June 2020)
Dr. Neville and the team provided keychains, hand molds, and music for the patient and his family. The patient’s ICU nurse, Priscilla, obtained the patient’s thumbprints on a piece of paper for Liz White (volunteer) to create this beautiful painting around. The two hand molds were delivered by Danielle and they were so excited to see the flower painting.
RR 7ICU: Blanket Keepsakes (February 2020)
This patient had two young children; 4 months and 3 years. Since the children were too young to be at the bedside with their mother, the ICU nurses wanted to create something for them to remember her by. Leora, Caitlin, and Jasmine (RNs) went to the store and got supplies to create beautiful blankets with their names and their mother’s handprint so that she can always be close to her children.
SMH AMN: Opera performance on AMN! (January 2020)
Dr. Karlin (Palliative Care physician) had this patient on his hospitalist team. After talking with the patient’s husband, Dr. Karlin learned they used to attend the Opera. Danielle was able to coordinate with the Ruskin Theatre Group and get an opera singer for the following afternoon. The talented singer sang a combination of Opera and songs from The Sound of Music. As soon as she started singing, so did the husband. This duet performance was beautifully heartwarming, especially because it was clear that the patient can hear and was responding! We had no idea he was a singer too. He said, “Music, you don’t forget”.
RR 4ICU: The Mariachi Band Returns + first EKG heart (December 2019)
Frances was the matriarch of a large Hispanic family and was the love of Luis’s life. It was unfair that she was dying from complications after a lung transplant during the Christmas holiday season. She used to be a dancer—specifically, to Mariachi music. Dr. Neville was her attending and was able to arrange for a mariachi band to come to the bedside during the weekend. We also had volunteers decorate her room with festive decorations. For keepsakes, CNS, Yuhan and ICU nurse Desiree made a beautiful hand mold for the husband and wife, and Dr. Neville made the first EKG keepsake for them as well.
SMH ICU: A wedding and Reception (November 2019)
This was our youngest wedding to-date. This patient and his Fiancé had been engaged for a year. They were planning to get married this coming year but his health took an unfortunate turn. We brought the wedding to him. His Fiancé got all dressed up and Dr. Neville purchased a veil for her to wear. Valerie (SW), Joseph (Chaplain), Jeanette (ICU nurse), and Danielle (3W project manager) worked together to make this happen. All the nurses helped to decorate. Friends and family gathered for a beautiful ceremony complete with an officiate and volunteer pianist. Following the ceremony, guests gathered in the empty room next door that had been transformed into a reception. There was a 3-tier cake, drinks, flowers, décor, and a guest book. Nurses Jeannette, Elyse, and Shonda helped create a beautiful hand cast of his, his father’s and his mother’s hands.
RR 8ICU: Steelers Room (September 2019)
Unfortunately, this patient was not a liver transplant candidate. His family told the social worker, Genna, and his nurse, Caroline Card, he loved the Steelers. We brought the Steelers to him! His family laid the cozy blanket over him and we decorated the room with hanging footballs and black and yellow streamers. Danielle made the word cloud with Steelers colors.
SMH Geriatrics: Broadway performance in the hospital room (April 2019)
This elderly patient was planning to head home on hospice for her remaining days. She was still alert and awake, but her body was weak and she could no longer physically enjoy life. She had a passion for musicals—she herself used to be a performer and attended shows regularly. Her favorite was “The Music Man”. Dr. Karlin (palliative care physician) asked Danielle to help him do something special for this patient. Danielle reached out to a local performing arts school and was able to arrange a live performance in her room. Just before the women began to sing, the patient remembered to put her hearing aids in and her face lit up as the music began. The second picture shows her with the lead teacher and his students from the Ruskin School of Acting.
RR 4ICU: Festive Mexican decorations handmade by volunteers and nurses (February 2019)
ICU nurse, Dominique learned that the patient loved the beach and actually had wanted to go back to Mexico. Decorating the room was a team effort. The unit volunteer, Sofia, purchased tissue paper from the gift shop and made tissue paper flowers. The CNS, Yuhan, printed out photos of his hometown while others worked together to string the photos and tissue flowers throughout the room. The comfort care cart was also decorated with tissue flowers. To honor his love for the beach, Dominique placed a cozy seashell blanket over the patient.
SMH Solid Oncology: Art Gallery (December 2018)
This patient was an artist and wished he was able to have a gallery to showcase his work before he died. The team at SMH Solid Oncology made this lifelong dream possible. Oncology nurses, Rayna, Becca, and Allegra, created flyers for the exhibit, displayed his art, and printed descriptions to highlight his paintings. They also incorporated in his favorite holiday, Christmas, by putting up Christmas lights and garlands around his paintings.
SMH ICU: Wedding (December 2018)
This patient, unfortunately, had end-stage metastatic cancer. He had been with his long-term partner for many years and they had children together. He wanted to get married to ensure that his children would be able to get benefits. The entire ICU staff came together to make this possible. Decorations were put up, a volunteer musician played the guitar at the bedside, and the unit chaplain officiated the exchange of vows. The patient died a few months later and the 3 Wishes team also helped them obtain cremation support from the Angel Fund. The patient leaves behind his wife and two young children.
RR 4ICU: Bringing the holidays to the bedside (November 2018)
This patient had a very large family that always had huge family gatherings for special occasions. Thanksgiving was coming up and the plan was to have the family gathering in the hospital. Dr. Neville bought decorations on her day off and came in to decorate her room with the family. MICU Director, Sherry, also reserved two conference rooms for the dinner. The patient sadly passed away the day before the planned celebration but to our surprise, the family felt that 3 Wishes was a true blessing because if it had not been us who brought in the decorations and joined them in putting up the decorations for a couple of hours, the family would have left the bedside for the night and missed her last breath which was so important to them.
RR 4ICU: Date Night (October 2018)
Unlike many of our patients at the end-of-life, this gentleman was still able to communicate even though he required a lot of oxygen for his respiratory failure. When asked about his final wishes, he asked for a final date night with his wife. 3 Wishes champion, Kristen, and her colleagues had very little time but were able to pull together an impromptu date night complete with flowers, chocolates, candles, and tablecloth (over their hospital table!). They even logged into their Netflix account so the couple can enjoy a movie together.
RR 4ICU: The first hand mold (June 2018)
This was a young patient who was in our ICU for weeks. The ICU nurse, Shana, had developed a close relationship with his wife and went above and beyond in this patient’s end of life care. On her own accord, Shana bought the hand-casting kit and made them a hand mold that has become a signature keepsake from UCLA 3 Wishes. Our unit director was able to accommodate the family’s request to have Shana as the nurse on the day of transitioning to comfort care. Shana also bought a beautiful tapestry for the comfort cart and had some refreshments for the family.
RR 4ICU: The Fisherman (April 2018)
This is the story of a gentleman who had irreversible respiratory failure and was not a transplant candidate. Unlike many of our patients, he was able to verbalize some of his wishes. He was Dr. Neville’s patient and to her dismay, when he was introduced to 3Wishes, he asked for his eyes to be donated after his death, and a donation be made to the Pat Tillman Foundation (which gives scholarships to our veterans). That night, he asked for a morphine drip and self-removed his high-flow oxygen. We made certain that One Legacy knew he was an organ donor and 3W also made a $100 donation to the Pat Tillman Foundation. Dr. Neville knew he was an avid fisher and made these word clouds for the family. His sister, Teresa, tells her that they gifted to his son for this 18th birthday.
RR 4ICU: A wish to not die in the ICU (December 2017)
This was our first UCLA 3 Wishes patient and the story occurred just one day after IRB approval. This patient was only in his 30’s and his wife (Sandy) knew that neither of them would want his final moments to be within the 4 walls of the ICU room. The 3W team made it possible for him and his wife to spend his last moments outside during sunset (which was an important time for them). Right before terminal extubation, Dr. Neville gave Sandy a blanket and Sandy crawled into bed with him and snuggled with him as he died. She told Dr. Neville that she sleeps with that blanket every night. Adam and Sandy’s 3Wishes story was featured as a news clip on multiple local news channels across the nation. Sandy and her mother-in-law attended the 3 Wishes First Anniversary Reception one year later.