Riley Secretary’s Bond With 2-Yr-Old Cancer Patient: ‘She Took A Piece Of My Heart To Heaven’

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Natasha Westfall still wears the stickers that little girl put on her badge. As secretary of the stem cell transplant unit, Westfall celebrates victories and helps families through defeats.

The tiny 2-year-old girl would wander out of her room to the big desk on the stem cell transplant unit – to Natasha Westfall’s desk.

The little girl had cancer and for some reason at this time and in this place, she fell in love with Westfall, the unit secretary.

Westfall was a kind face, a friendly smile, a woman who took the time to play with her – and who had just what that little girl loved. Stickers.

Together, they would color pictures and put stickers all over the place. Westfall still has those stickers that little girl put on her badge.

“She could light up a whole room,” Westfall says. “She was the sassiest 2-year-old I have ever met.”

Everyone on the unit tried so hard to get that little girl to say their names. She wouldn’t. But she would walk up and down the halls saying “Tasha,” “Tasha.”

“I will never forget this little girl,” Westfall says, “as she took a piece of my heart with her to heaven.” 

Working on the stem cell transplant unit at Riley is one of the most amazing jobs, Westfall says. Miracles happen all the time. There are joyful celebrations and victories as children leave cancer free.

But, there are also sad times – and defeats.

Westfall, who has worked at Riley since 2013 starting out on the burn unit, feels she has found her true calling.  

“To work on this unit, you have to be strong, caring and compassionate,” Westfall says. “You also have to be understanding and have the ability to be a shoulder to cry on.”  

Day to day, Westfall is in charge of making sure the unit runs smoothly. She orders supplies, is in charge of admitting patients, answers the phones and the call lights, puts in chemotherapy orders and helps to make sure all the equipment is accounted for. 

Best part of her job: “Getting to know the patients, families and building relationships with them. Seeing the patients leave cancer free is the most rewarding part about working on such a unit that has the potential to be very sad.”

Getting through the tough times: “I try to get through the day and go home to my family and lean on them for support if I need it or love on my kiddos.”

Helping families in sad situations: “I try to make it easier on the families by talking to them if they need someone to talk to, getting them anything they may need and just simply listening to what they have to say.”  

Outside of Riley: “I have a loving husband and three amazing children that I am very thankful for. In my time away from work, my family is my No. 1 priority.” In any spare time she has, Westfall enjoys shopping.

-- By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

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