Alumni Spotlights

Nurses Really are Superheroes! Niagara Alum Jayne Cash, '82: Patient-centered care, beyond the bedside!

  • on September 16, 2022
  • by Reprinted with permission of Duke University Medical Center
  • in
Katherine Zoratti, Anthony Zoratti and Jayne Cash, '82

Katherine Zoratti, Anthony Zoratti and Jayne Cash, '82

Seeking medical care can sometimes be challenging. Seeking medical care for a child with special needs or one that needs special care can feel like climbing a mountain without a map. As a special needs parent, there isn’t any standard cookie cutter situation: finding providers is difficult, scheduling around daily therapies and dealing with insurance companies is not for the faint of heart. All the while, you’re trying to create a fulfilled life for your entire family. Put this in the middle of a worldwide pandemic when most nonemergent procedures are suspended at all major hospitals and it’s bound to take the spring out of your step.

Meet Anthony Zoratti, a young boy from Buffalo, N.Y., with autism spectrum disorder and who is also nonverbal. Anthony communicates through the use of an adaptive technology device and thrives on scheduled repetitive day-to-day activities. Most of these activities were shut off during the pandemic, his speech therapist dropped him and establishing a “new normal” was a challenge for Anthony and those around him.

At the breakout of the pandemic, Anthony was on a waiting list for an intravenous stem cell infusion at Duke University Medical Center in Raleigh, N.C. This procedure that has shown significant progress in quality of life for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Anthony’s wait was long in the making and was prolonged even more due to the pandemic. However, Anthony had a fairy godmother on his side: Jayne Cash, RN, BSN. A 1982 graduate from Niagara University, Jayne was the clinical research nurse coordinator at the Marcus Center for Cellular Cures at Duke University School of Medicine.

Most procedures at all medical centers stopped, organizations were short-handed, but Jayne kept Anthony in queue and kept pursuing everything necessary to get him to Duke for his infusion. She worked feverishly to make progress for Anthony’s procedure and prepare once the medical center opened up: coordinating approvals with the stem cell storage company to have the cells shipped, having the pre-op EEG and bloodwork in place, and advising on any other steps Anthony’s family could complete in New York before making the trip. She made what seemed impossible, possible for Anthony and his family.

“I have worked with many healthcare providers in the USA and Canada seeking care for my son and I never had a provider follow through, follow-up and be as empathetic as Jayne Cash from Duke University Medical Center. Right down to when we arrived in Raleigh and were confined to our hotel room when we weren’t at the hospital, Jayne provided some insight on places to walk or where my husband and I could take our kids while the world was shut down. When walking around the Duke University campus we stopped and watched the lady’s tennis team practicing and the coach took the time to have a conversation with my family. We were strangers in a pandemic. It wasn’t until months into working together did Jayne tell us she was from Western New York. We traveled to Duke University Medical Center twice during the height of the pandemic and transferred 15 million stem cells. Jayne literally held our hands through the entire process right down to each procedure. Our family struggled during the pandemic and will always be forever grateful to Jayne and the entire Duke community. We were a special needs family traveling like so many to seek care for our child and the community opened their hearts up to us during a very difficult time.

I would like to thank Jayne Cash for your professionalism and love for what you do as it really showed - and I know it all started at Niagara University! She is a true Superhero! I would also like to thank Neil and Lisa Stafford, beloved friends and lifelong residents of Niagara County, as all of them were very instrumental in making this infusion happen for my son Anthony”. – Katherine Zoratti, parent of Anthony Zoratti