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People Making A Difference: UCLA Health Program Aims To Make Final Moments Easier For Patients And Family —  A Wish At A Time

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when it's the final one, which is why one program at UCLA Health is granting wishes in an effort to make those last moments just a little bit easier.

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Mariachis play in the hospital room of a dying patient as part of the 3 Wishes Project. (Credit: 3 Wishes Project)

"These are the moments where we really stop asking the question of, 'What is the matter with a patient?' and ask the question, 'What matters to the patient?'" Dr. Thanh Neville, an intensive care unit physician at UCLA Health.

Neville is the medical director of UCLA's 3 Wishes Project, an effort aimed at improving the end-of-life experience for dying patients while supporting grieving loved ones throughout the process.

"They can be very small, they can be large," Neville said. "It could be very simple things, like it might be just playing the patient's favorite music in their final moments. It might be allowing them to see a family member or even a pet."

Neville said her team has even completed more extravagant things, such as staging entire weddings within the confines of a hospital room.

Started in 2017, the 3 Wishes Project has fulfilled around 1,700 wishes. And while Neville said they are all memorable in their own way, one stands out just a little bit more for her.

"His wife basically told me that this is a gentleman who loves the outdoors, loves the sunshine, and she could not bear the thought of him dying within the four walls of his ICU room," she said. "We actually moved his ICU bed along with his ventilators outside. I handed her a blanket, and she snuggled with him, and I disconnected him from the ventilator and he passed peacefully outside."

The wife still has that blanket.

"I actually sleep with that blanket every night," she said. "Because that was the last thing he, like, touched and had on him."

Big or small, it's the moment of peace granted by the wish that matters.

"I think end-of-life care is incredibly important," Neville said. "And for me to be able to be there and provide acts of kindness at the end of life for these patients, that's a privilege."

More information about the 3 Wishes Project, and ways to support it, can be found on the project's website.

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