Team supports coworker battling cancer, helping her check off bucket list items in her final days

Carolina (center in wheelchair) with some of her friends from Mom/Baby at Utah Valley Hospital.

After working as a patient care tech for the Mom/Baby Unit at Utah Valley Hospital for more than 16 years, Carolina Banks considered her coworkers her family. This adopted family rallied around Carolina during her fight with cancer and made sure her last months were filled with fun, adventure, and lots of love.

Carolina helicopter

Carolina heading out on a helicopter ride.

“My team is wonderful,” Carolina said in late April. “They’re very loving people, and they’re always willing to help. I feel so much love for them. I admire them for all they’ve done and are still doing.”

Carolina passed away the morning of May 10, surrounded by members of her work family who’d been taking turns staying with her night and day.

A native of Peru, Carolina battled ovarian cancer for several years. Chemotherapy worked with the first diagnosis, but her body reacted poorly to that treatment when she was diagnosed a second time. Carolina tried oral medication when the cancer returned a third time, but eventually it wasn’t enough to slow down the disease.

Carolina’s work family supported her through all the ups and downs of her cancer battle.

“The girls were always there for me with texts and phone calls,” Carolina said. “They’d spend time with me and bring food over. They even made bracelets with the ovarian cancer colors. They’re an example to me of love and compassion. The lift I have comes from my faith in God first, then my family, and my second family from Mom/Baby.”

Carolina skydive

Carolina preparing to go skydiving.

In addition to helping her get to doctor visits and other appointments, the Mom/Baby team created a bucket list for their friend and started helping her check things off. Here’s a taste of items on the list:

  • Skydive
  • River rafting
  • Helicopter ride
  • Movie night at Thanksgiving Point
  • Luau in the park (to replace a trip to Hawaii)
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Sleepover with family and friends at a cabin

Supporting and caring for Carolina was a natural thing for members of the Mom/Baby team because she’d done the same for them. She’d get to know coworkers’ children and spouses, attend weddings, funerals, and birthday parties, and share in the successes and failures of those she worked with day after day. This created a tight bond that can’t easily be explained with words.

Carolina luau

Carolina with friends enjoying a luau at a park.

Cindy Mason, a nurse on Mom/Baby, says the best part of completing each bucket list item was watching Carolina’s face light up with a huge smile and see her do a little salsa jig.

“Carolina was a spicy, hilarious, honest, kind, generous and loyal friend,” Cindy says. “Our hearts are broken to no longer have her dynamite personality with us.”

Mom/Baby Manager Sarah Mero remembers working the floor many times with Carolina as her PCT for the shift. She says Carolina trained her well and let her know if she forgot something. Safety and cleanliness were always top priorities for Carolina, who made sure the hallways were clear each time she worked.

“We’re a tight knit group of women on the Mom/Baby floor,” Sarah says. “We grow close to one another as we all love what we do, and we love our patients. Carolina had the respect of all of us, even before her cancer diagnosis. Carolina was everything to our floor.”

Carolina river

Carolina enjoying a river rafting trip.

When lifting became difficult for Carolina, she transferred to a greeter/screener position so she could keep working. She worked many shifts at Orem Community Hospital and quickly became a part of that team as well.

Annie Sainsbury, Volunteer Services supervisor at Orem, says Carolina found a way to raise the bar in the greeter/screener role. She cleaned the area where she was stationed, stood to welcome anyone who entered, and got to know all the caregivers.

“She loved the people and the environment,” says Andria. “She always said how it was so great to feel like she was contributing even though she was sick.”

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