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Good Morning, Robin!

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Photo courtesy MSKCC
Inpatient unit staff say goodbye to TV host Robin Roberts on her day of discharge from MSKCC.

After receiving a bone marrow transplant for the rare blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome late last year, Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts returned to the show’s New York City studio.

On the Feb. 20 “Welcome Back, Robin Roberts,” episode of the ABC-TV daytime news program, Roberts had company.

The veteran TV host acknowledged the staff members who cared for her at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City during her inpatient and outpatient stays, publicly thanking them in front of millions of viewers.

Sheila A. Kenny, RN, MSN, NP-C, and Lorraine Jackson, RN, MA, ACNP-BC, were among six MSKCC staff members — including Jenny Tran, RN, BSN; Tonya Samuel, NA; Theresa Mathews, RN, MS, OCN; and Julie Kleber, RN, BSN — Roberts invited into the studio that day. Kenny and Jackson are nurse practitioners on Sloan-Kettering’s outpatient bone marrow transplant unit. Both were active in Roberts’ care upon her discharge from the inpatient service. Kenny and Jackson described the experience of being on GMA as somewhat surreal.

“It was really exciting because you didn’t know what to expect,” Jackson said. “They gave us VIP wristbands and then took us to the green room. I was more anxious because I just thought we were going to be in the audience.”

The highlight for the nurses came after Roberts completed an interview with her physician and MSKCC’s chief of medicine.

“Once that was completed, she stood up and she said, ‘I would like everyone here to give a standing ovation and recognize my nurses,’ and everyone stood up,” Kenny said. “Even the crew in the control room (stood and cheered).”

The gesture was completely genuine, according to Kenny, who said Roberts wanted to be treated just like any other patient.

“She’s a lovely person who did not seek any special attention,” Kenny said. “She was a joy to take care of. She was very appreciative and very respectful of all the staff … from nursing to pharmacy.”

Although they were not in the studio that day, the nurses on both the inpatient and outpatient services were just as excited, according to Jackson and Kenny. The nurses appreciated the accolades from Roberts, but were just happy to get to know her.

“She touched all of our lives,” Kenny said. “She values every moment and every day. It’s a gift when you’re caring for patients who are able to teach you.”

The shining moment wasn’t just for the nurses who cared for Roberts. “It wasn’t just for the handful of nurses that were there,” Kenny said.

Jackson agreed. “It was just a great moment for nursing in general,” she said. “It was all about nursing across the board. We were just fortunate to come across her path and be recognized.”

Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.

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