Nurse Offers Compassion and a Dash of Fairy Magic
May 11, 2021
Monique Binkley Smith
Fairy House

Experienced nurses know sometimes healthcare has less to do with medicine and more to do with caring and kindness.

Recently, one radiation oncology nurse took special care of a young patient whose cancer had progressed and who was no longer a candidate for chemotherapy.

The little girl and her parents had come to the radiation oncology clinic on the Herrick campus of Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley for a procedure to prepare her for palliative radiation. But before the procedure, the patient’s parents and oncologist needed some time to talk privately and candidly about the next steps in her treatment.

Male nurse with fairy house

Esau Zavala-Henriquez, RN

That’s when radiation oncology nurse Esau Zavala-Henriquez, RN, stepped in to provide a big dose of caring and compassion.

As the specialty clinic’s coordinator for pediatric patients, a position he’s held for six years since moving over from inpatient oncology at the Alta Bates campus, Zavala-Henriquez is comfortable caring for the medical center’s littlest patients, providing kindness –and a dash sprinkling of fairy magic when needed.

Donna Russell, RN, manager of radiation oncology at the Herrick Campus says, “Esau has a huge heart –he really takes care of everybody in the clinic.”

Enchanted Care

While the child’s parents and oncologist discussed treatment plans, Zavala-Henriquez gave his young patient a welcome break from her care. The two colored a fairy-themed coloring sheet and then Zavala-Henriquez pushed the giggling little girl in her wheelchair on a hunt through the clinic looking for fairy doors—which clinic staff installed several years ago to amuse and distract their youngest patients.

Nurse Zavala-Henriquez’s ability to go beyond his clinical duties allowed his patient to forget her illness and just be a kid for a short while, says Russell.

Caring for family members who’ve battled cancer informs his nursing says Zavala-Henriquez. These experiences have taught him that patients and their families need and truly appreciate the personal, compassionate care he and the rest of the radiation oncology clinic team provide.

Zavala-Henriquez says the staff at the Herrick campus of Alta Bates Summit work hard to create a warm, welcoming environment.

“From the valet parkers, to the security staff, to the front desk staff, to the nurses, therapists and doctors—everyone here works together to make our patients feel cared for,” Zavala-Henriquez says.

And the caring doesn’t stop at the clinic doors. The radiation oncology clinic staff presented the little patient with her very own fairies and fairy house to take home with her.

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