Rebecca Barker is a 29-year-old patient who has been in and out of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for more than 4 years. She has ulcerative colitis, a condition affecting the digestive tract. “The disease has become very complicated,” Barker said. “I’ve had close to 30 surgeries in the past 10 years.”
Her latest stay at the medical center had been 3 weeks when she started waving to patients and teammates she saw outside her window, across the atrium of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. She had the idea of sticking yellow Post-it® notes on her window that read “Smile” to get their attention. People noticed and began waving back.
“I told Rebecca to look out her window because I was going to put one up for her to look at across the atrium,” said Jennifer Woodberry, nurse manager, 9 Cancer Center Surgical Oncology. Woodberry and another nurse posted “Love” for Barker.
“Rebecca was laughing at us from across the atrium. She could see us struggling to put the word up backwards to be read,” Woodberry said.
The Post-it note messages started to catch on. Teammates and patients used colorful notes to create short messages in Cancer Center windows like “Stay well” and “U Rock.” They also posted rainbows, hearts and flowers.
“Oh my goodness, the first one that went up, it made me so happy that someone else was smiling at least for a minute,” Barker said. “I was shocked when this caught on. Everyone got into it, and it was a genuine joy.”
Woodberry said the messages have been uplifting to everyone. “We deal with a lot of sadness at the Cancer Center, so this has really put everyone in a brighter, hopeful mood,” she said. “It’s been fun, and each day people come in to see what’s up now.”
“This floor has been amazing, and the staff has become like family to me,” Barker said. “This is just a reminder that sometimes you can feel helpless, but never feel hopeless.”