“It means our very lives.”
When asked what Baystate Health means to their family, this is Kevin and Sue Lawson’s unequivocal answer. In 2020 both Kevin and the couple’s son Brian faced concurrent life-threatening health crises that required lengthy stays in intensive care, where they were placed just a few doors down from each other. Sue credits Baystate Health’s clinical expertise and teamwork with saving her family members. “Two of the men I love the most have walked a very thin line between life and death. Baystate literally saved their lives.”
During those unimaginable seven weeks, Sue wore several hats: mother, wife, and patient advocate—the last a role she has focused on since 2008, when she herself had life-saving emergency cardiac surgery. “When you recover from that type of surgery, there is a sense of resurrection,” Sue says.
Because of this experience, Sue accepted a request from Baystate Health to become a founding member of a new patient experience committee for Baystate Medical Center. Her work led to the development of the Patient and Family Advisory Council—an innovative model that has transformed the patient experience here at Baystate Health and served as a blueprint for other healthcare organizations.
Among many other things, in this volunteer role Sue has helped to build systems to track and advocate for patient wishes about their care, and instituted training about how providers communicate, particularly around difficult information and end- of- life care.
A past volunteer with Baystate Health Foundation, Kevin, too, has played an important role in patient experience, particularly since his retirement. Motivated by other therapy dogs at Baystate Health, Kevin and his rescue cocker spaniel Molly became a certified therapy dog team. Until her recent passing, Kevin and Molly came together to bring joy and comfort to hundreds of patients of all ages and their care teams.
“Little kids couldn't stay away from Molly. And it’s so comforting to see her interact with the older patients,” says Kevin. “Most people have had dogs at some point in their lives and it brings back a lot of memories.”
Molly even boosted the spirits of the care teams, who requested visits from her every time she was there. “I’m so glad that we’ve had the chance to do that. Seeing the joy that visiting with Molly has brought was very fulfilling,” says Kevin.
Kevin and Sue have poured their time and talent into making Baystate Health the best it can be for patients. And yet, they both see there is more work to be done. “As hard as I know we have all been working, we are painfully aware of how much more work we have to do to keep the patient experience top notch at every level,” says Sue.
In an extraordinary act of further service, in order to ensure this work is able to happen, Kevin and Sue have made meaningful contributions, including a gift of gratitude in their estate plans, to support efforts to improve patient experience. By making a gift to provide ongoing future support, the Lawsons help make sure Baystate Health leaders have the resources they need to ensure patients receive the best in care effectively, safely and with compassion.
“I see our giving as another part of our service,” says Sue. “Every decision directly or indirectly impacts patient experience, from what detergent is used to how well different departments are talking to each other. And patient experience has a direct effect on outcomes. The small stuff really does equate to the big stuff.”
Made with the support of their sons, the Lawsons made this gift to ensure the transformative work they have already done to elevate the patient experience continues in perpetuity. “We are partners in this journey of providing healthcare for the community,” says Sue. “We’re in this together.”
“It has to do with gratitude,” adds Kevin. “We do it because we can. We are grateful to Baystate that we are here to do it. Without them we would not be continuing on this journey.”
2023 Impact Award Recipients
Sue and Kevin were also the recipients of the 2023 Baystate Health Foundation Impact Award, presented to them during the President's Evening of Gratitude in May. The Impact award is a special honor bestowed upon donors who have gone above and beyond in their support for Baystate Health, as the Lawsons have with their volunteerism and philanthropic efforts.
Learn how you can join community members like Sue and Kevin by making a legacy gift.