For Clinton resident Scott Mellon, a trip to Universal Studios in Florida is a chance to make some cherished memories with his family.
Recently, UMMC staff and Dream Foundation representatives joined Mellon to celebrate one of his wishes: a vacation with family.
Mellon is battling recurrent colon cancer. “I was diagnosed in 2007 and cancer free until 2013,” Scott he said. His sister, Allison Mellon, a missionary in Cambodia, found the Dream Foundation, a group that grants wishes to terminally ill adult patients and nominated her brother for a wish fulfillment.
Scott's wish? A trip to Universal Studios. Dream is providing travel, hotel and tickets for Scott and one family member. His parents, his sisters, Allison and Lisa Maddox, and brother, Drew Mellon, and their families will join him for a two-week tour of the Orlando theme park.
Allison is bringing her four young adopted children. “She thought this might be the only time I'd get to see them,” Scott said. Laughing, he added, “The youngest will turn 2 on the flight over here.”
Genentech, a drug company and Dream partner, is providing some spending money, chocolate for the trip, and a motorized scooter for Scott's use at the park. “They're all going to want to ride in that scooter,” Scott said of his nieces and nephews.
Mellon digs into a backpack with trip paperwork and other surprises as his brother Drew, left, and mother, Barbara, watch.
Scott, a respiratory therapist at UMMC for 17 years, worked primarily in the Emergency Department and usually at night. Cancer forced him to retire on disability about a year ago.
“I've always worked at UMMC. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else,” he said. “I enjoyed working with the patients, especially the asthmatics.”
Another memory? Working with Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs Dr. LouAnn Woodward when she was a resident. “She was real good, real nice,” he said.
Genentech representative Tammy Miller coordinated the recent Dream presentation with coffee, cookies and plenty of Universal-themed props for selfies. “We wanted to surprise you,” she said as she presented a backpack with trip documents and other goodies. “You definitely did,” Scott replied.
A steady stream of UMMC caregivers came by, posing for pictures and stooping to hug Scott or chat.
For his physician, Dr. Louis Puneky and nurse, Denise Smith, the gift is bittersweet.
“He has not only battled colon cancer for years, but as also battled cerebral palsy all his life,” said Puneky, a medical oncologist. “He has made the most he can out of his life pursuing a career, independent living, loving Ole Miss football and NBA basketball in Memphis. I have worked his chemo schedule around events he wanted to be part of.”
Smith, an oncology nurse, calls the trip “something extraordinary for him and his family to remember.”
“He is so sweet and encouraging no matter how terrible he feels, so afraid he is bothering me for taking up my time,” she said. “It is in fact, my pleasure to get an opportunity to do something to help him.”
Kim Cain, oncology nurse, left, and Janice Johnson, Cancer Institute Patient Resource Center manager, help pack the Universal Studio props for Mellon to share with his nieces and nephews.
Scott's mom, Barbara Mellon, said she is looking forward to having her family together.
“He's always been independent,” she said of her son, smiling slightly as she watched clinic staff stopping for hugs and pictures.
“The Dream Foundation has done a wonderful thing in providing this trip for Scott and his mom,” Smith said, “He has overcome so many obstacles, but never seems to let it get him down. To live independent of his family has been so important to him.”
With her gaze still on her son, Barbara describes the effort Scott put into his home and job.
She pauses and watches as her husband steps in for a picture with his son and the Universal props, then blinks as though taking a mental photograph. Soon, the entire family will be in the picture, even if it's just for a couple of weeks at Universal.
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