Supporting Her Patient Beyond a Health Care Role

Health care providers know that caring for patients comes in many different forms. Alumna and current Master of Science in Nursing student Jaclyn Kenney (’15), a Nebraska Medicine Special Care Unit nurse at the Fred and Pamela Buffet Cancer Center, recently went above and beyond by donating her breast milk to help a cancer patient and new mother. The donation changed the patient’s life and spoke of Kenney’s devotion to her health care profession.

Kenney began working at Nebraska Medicine after completing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in summer 2015. She spent time in the labor and delivery department during her undergraduate clinicals and hoped to continue working in that area. With no open job positions in the department after graduation, Kenney explored her options in the Oncology and Hematology unit. “I fell in love with oncology,” she said. “Our patients are incredible, and they made me want to stay.”

One such patient is Ashley Chestnut, a 30-year-old mother of two recently diagnosed with lymphoma. She started receiving chemotherapy treatments shortly after her diagnosis and could no longer breastfeed her five-month-old son, Easton. The devastating news came soon after her diagnosis, and Chestnut struggled with the implications.

Kenney learned about Chestnut’s family from another Oncology and Hematology nurse who mentioned that her patient had a son around the same age as Kenney’s daughter, Halle. Hearing about the family’s situation inspired Kenney as a mother and a nurse.

Kenney discovered that Easton has a milk soy protein intolerance (MSPI), and he is on a lactose-free diet. Coincidentally, Halle also has a MSPI, and Kenney realized that she had nearly one and a half months of breast milk in her freezer that was compatible with Easton’s specialized diet. Previously, Kenney considered taking the donation to a milk bank, but knowing the recipient inspired her to contact Chestnut. “Some people don’t prefer to use donated breast milk, so I wasn’t sure how she would react,” Kenney said. “When I asked her, she burst into tears and asked, ‘May I hug you?’”

Overall, Kenney donated nearly 1,000 ounces (125 cups) of breast milk to Chestnut, and the two formed a unique bond through their roles as young mothers. “I think that God placed us in the right place at the right time,” Kenney said. “Ashley is such a strong fighter. Every time I see her in the hallway, she has a huge smile on her face, and she is so appreciative of the donation.”