The Importance of a Transplant Social Worker

In this article, I want to focus on the importance of your social worker if you are living in a hospital with a life threatening medical condition.

When Lauren was admitted into the hospital, I felt like my world was turned upside down. I was so scared for my daughter.  Looked around the room, so many monitors, machines so clinical and thinking this is my home now.   I know my daughter was scared so I had to keep an upbeat persona to help her feel more at ease.  Nurses were coming in and out, monitors were beeping, IV’s were being administered, so much, too much was happening.

At Brigham & Women’s all the cardiac patients have private rooms, that was a blessing.  There was a couch in the room, so as I sat there with my husband just holding hands, my mind was going in a thousand directions.  I knew he would have to go home in a couple of days to go to work, I had to dig deep to find the strength to figure out how the hell am I going to be able to live in a hospital room with my daughter, in a city I didn’t know, being 87 miles away from home.  We had no idea how long we were going to be there.  Days, weeks, months or a year.  One thing I did know was, I was not leaving my daughter.  We were in this together.  From the outside people saw a different person, on the inside I was crying from fear.

We were meeting so many people, I would take their cards and on the back I would write little notes on them, like hair color, just something so that I could remember who they are.  I didn’t want to be rude when they entered the room, if I couldn’t read their name badges.

There was one person we met that knew I wouldn’t forget her name, it was  Kristen DeVoe, our social worker from the hospital.  Kristen came into the room, introduced herself to us, then told us she was here to help us in anything we needed.  She was not only there for Lauren, but she was there for me also.

Everyday, Kristen would come to our room to check on us, giving us emotional support, asking if we needed anything and I mean anything.  Kristen became a very important confidant in my life.  I found I could talk with her about anything.  She also was a blessing when it came to taking care of medical paperwork, insurance forms basically anything.  More important, when I just needed a hug or talk outside of Lauren’s room, Kristen was their for me.  When Lauren wanted to talk, I would leave the room so she could have her one on one time also.

I wrote to Kristen and asked her if I could write a post about her and her job as a social worker.  Even though we have been out of the hospital for a while now, I can still contact Kristen if I need to.  Kristen’s answered “absolutely”.  A social worker will not be your best friend, but during that time in the hospital, in my mind she was.

I would like to introduce you to,

Kristen DeVoe MSW, LICSW
Clinical Social Worker
Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support
Brigham and Women’s Hospital


 Some facts about my role…I’ll include my basic job description first:

· Work as part of a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, dieticians and pharmacists.
· Provide comprehensive social work assessments as part of a pre-transplant or pre-ventricular assist device evaluation.
· Provide ongoing psychosocial and emotional support to patients and families before and after transplant and mechanical circulatory support.
· Facilitate a monthly support group for patients with mechanical circulatory support.
· Offer clinical opinions regarding the candidacy of potential transplant recipients at weekly selection committee meetings.

Boring, I know. So a lot of what I do is help patients and families get through the difficult process of waiting for a transplant. I provide support and counseling for patients before listing, while they are waiting and then after transplant. When I first meet a potential transplant patient I have to get to know them and make sure they have enough social support to get through the process successfully. I help patients manage anxiety and depression and basically serve as a source of support for them emotionally. I love my job. The relationships that I form with patients and families (like you and Lauren) are very important to me and I feel grateful that people allow me to share part of their journey. It truly is a privilege to work with the patients that I get to see and I’m constantly amazed by how much the human spirit can endure without breaking.


Kristen DeVoe MSW, LICSW
Clinical Social Worker
Cardiac Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

If you are living in a hospital, please take the support of your social worker.  Dr.’s and nurses are very important components in your care, but also remember your social worker is as important also.

This post is dedicated to Kristen DeVoe and all the other social workers out there.


Lauren will be speaking to the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce

donate life

Lauren has been invited to speak at a breakfast hosted by the Chicopee Chamber of Commerce on September 16th 2015.

Lauren’s last speaking event was in Boston, at the Harvard Medical School.  She spoke about what it was like for a patient to live in the hospital for a lengthy period of time.  The objective was to help inform the new and upcoming Doctors how she felt.  Bedside manner, keeping her informed of her medical conditions and just letting them know she was a person not just a patient.

This speaking event with be about the importance of  informing and educating on how to  become an organ donor, and why people should sign up.

My thoughts are if we could save one life through a transplant, then we have helped.



The ladies are coming today………..


This is my family.

My mother, myself, my sister Laureen and my sister Donna.  My mother and sister Laureen lives in Florida and my sister Donna lives in Virginia.  Today they are flying and driving to come here to my house today.  Then tomorrow we are off to Old Orchard Beach Maine to spend time together.   This will be the first vacation we all take together, since we were kids.

After the last couple of years, we are now learning how important it is to just do it.  We always had reasons before not to be able to just say “let’s do it”, but now every moment is precious. Normally I would fly to Florida once a year to see my mother and sister, but this past year it will be the 3rd time I see my mom.  It is hard when they live so far way.

I am blessed t have my family, so now it’s time to enjoy being together.

Look out Old Orchard Beach, the ladies are coming to have fun.


Buddies, Lauren and Joe


Lauren and Joe Whalen

Yesterday Lauren went to visit one of her best buddies.  They have a special bond that only they will know.

They both had a heart transplant.

We met Joe and his family when we were living in Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston Ma.  Lauren already received her heart at the time, but having so many complications after the transplant, it took Lauren 5 months to recover.  During that time, we met Joe.

Joe was on the heart transplant list, he had a LVAD.  Medical reasons at that time he needed to be hospitalized for his waiting time.  I remember Joe walking with his machine doing laps around the hospital floor all the time.  Joe wanted to keep his body as strong as it could be, plus to be honest there wasn’t really anything else to do.  Walking the floor you can at least talk and meet people.  That’s how Lauren met him.  After talking with Joe, we found out he lives about 10 miles from our house.  Joe and Lauren instantly became friends.  They were great support for each other.  Joe received his gift of life in April.

Since then Lauren and Joe have kept in touch.  I feel blessed that Lauren has someone in her life that she can talk with, laugh with and I’m sure cry with.

Joe is a music teacher, so when we were living in the hospital, Joe created a song about living in the hospital.  We would joke and call the hospital the Cardiac Hotel. Please take a moment to listen to it.  It Is beautiful.



During my life, I have realized that every morning we are blessed to be able to start a new day. This morning, I woke up (that’s a blessing) made a coffee and said “It’s going to be a great day”.  I took some time to reflect on my life.  I live in a beautiful house, […]

What’s up with Oral Surgeons ????

When you have a bad tooth ache or are in pain from your wisdom teeth, you are recommended to see an Oral Surgeon.  You say OK.  Now you call the office, you’re in pain (nothing is more painful than a tooth ache) and they say to you “the dr. can see you in 3 weeks for a consult first”.  Your first thought is “are you kidding me, 3 weeks!!!!!”


Now the search continues, you call other offices and they say the same thing.  I get it, they are busy, but how is a person to live and go on with their daily lives with that kind of pain.  Impossible.

A good friend of Lauren’s is going though that right now.  We can relate to her, because when Lauren was having pain with her wisdom teeth, she had to wait almost a month before they would see her.  Even with her transplant team from Boston calling, nothing sooner.

In this day and time, when a person needs medical care, especially for mouth pain, it should be addressed. Any comments on this subject ?????????