One Patient’s Special Graduation

Aditya “Dity” Vishwanathan was preparing to graduate with his bachelor’s in business from UW-Madison in May 2017. Struck with an unexpected hospitalization, he was unable to attend the long anticipated ceremony.

Both parents – his mother from Delaware and his father from Portland – traveled to Madison for the graduation along with Vishwanathan’s sister, aunt and uncle.

“Dity’s mother and father are first generation in their family who moved to the U.S. from India,” states Kirstin Reinke, BSN, RN, cardiac intensive care. “They were incredibly proud of their son for graduating college and accepting a full-time position with an accounting firm in Chicago.”

Vishwanathan’s father, Arun, who has his PhD, was always unable to afford his own cap and gown for any of his graduations. So, it was especially important to him that his son walk across that stage.

“I wasn’t bummed about missing my graduation,” stated Vishwanathan. But the staff on the cardiac intensive care unit knew that he and his family would appreciate some type of recognition for his accomplishment. Little did they know, it would come in the form of an actual ceremony.

“We are all college graduates and know how memorable it was to walk across the stage and be handed our diplomas,” continued Reinke. “We told his mother and father that we were planning a little surprise for Dity and the rest of the family. And it ended up being an all day effort because Dity was unable to walk in the morning.”

The ceremony preparation mimicked that of legitimate event planning, as Reinke and nursing colleagues made a graduation cap out of a cardboard box, covered with black construction paper – topped with an official Bucky Badger – and tassel made of rubber bands. “Honors cords” were also created using festive necklaces from the unit’s prior Nurses Week celebration, and to make the event extra special, Vishwanathan’s room was also decorated.

When Reinke walked Vishwanathan out to the inpatient cardiology unit, all staff working that weekend cheered as the graduation cap was placed on his head.

The family was able to take photos and unit staff walked them back to cardiac intensive care, where another colleague was playing pomp and circumstance, and a “diploma” was handed to him.

“There wasn’t a dry eye between his mom and dad,” said Reinke. “And once Dity got back to his room, he felt the emotion as well.”

The unit also arranged for a cake and “champagne” to be waiting when he and his parents returned to his room.

“The family was very thankful and actually kept the graduation cap we made,” continues Reinke. “It was a team effort from both units and I could not have made this happen without everyone’s help!”

One week after the ceremony, Arun and Vishwanathan were full of appreciation as they shared with Reinke their memories of the ceremony that took place.

Arun wrote: “We are exceptionally grateful for everyone’s creativity, compassion and support during this challenging time. Your team not only took wonderful care of our son, you also gave us an unforgettable graduation ceremony beautifully orchestrated by everyone on the unit. You made a very pleasant interlude to a not-so-nice situation.”