His mother wished there was a way to enjoy one last family vacation and forget she had cancer, if only for a few magical days. Thanks to the unexpected generosity of a family friend, the wish came true about two months before she passed as the Taylor family enjoyed a weekend getaway at the Great Wolf Lodge.
“When you see someone smile again that you never thought would, there is something life-changing about that,” Taylor said.
Now an emergency physician at Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital and Riverview Hospital, an assistant professor of clinical emergency medicine at IU School of Medicine and a U.S. Air Force flight surgeon, Taylor is paying it forward.
In June 2023, he launched a YouTube channel called Physicians for Wishes with the goal of granting wishes—vacations or otherwise—to people with critical illnesses. Taylor takes nominations from anyone and doesn’t restrict wishes to a certain age group. He’s willing to do anything within budget as long as the individual is physically able. And he is inviting other physicians to join this smile-making initiative.
The first wish nomination came from colleagues at Ball Memorial for the son of nurse Chrissy Berry, 20-year-old Devin Loudy, who has been living with glioblastoma (GBM) brain cancer since his diagnosis at age 13. As Physicians for Wishes’ first wish fulfillment, Devin and his entire family enjoyed four days together at a beachfront home on the shores of Lake Michigan in August.
“Dr. Taylor is simply amazing to do what he is doing,” Berry said. “I never expected him to be the one to do all the planning, booking, shopping, and be there in person in Michigan to greet us and have all of Devin's favorites there and ready. He’s such a caring person! It was amazing.”
Taylor’s personal provisions included dinner from a local barbecue restaurant, all the supplies for s’mores and plenty of Mountain Dew Baja Blast.
“Since this was my first wish vacation video, and since I did not know the last time Devin smiled and had fun, I had to make sure I literally had thought of everything to help bring that smile,” Taylor said.
It paid off with Devin cracking jokes and smiling as he roasted marshmallows, splashed in the water, and took in picturesque sunset views with his grandma, mom, siblings and girlfriend.
Creating this experience and working with a professional film crew to document it brought flashbacks for Taylor. He couldn’t help but think of his own family’s final vacation together at the Great Wolf Lodge.
“I remember every moment of every day of our last family vacation, and to know that Devin’s family will remember their vacation forever brings me a smile,” he said. “I still get goose bumps watching the video. I had to keep my emotions in check for filming, but so many things along the way throughout the filming were tugging on my heart strings.”
The experience was equally priceless for Devin’s family. His mom has been at home as his primary caregiver for the last seven months.
“It’s awesome to have all my family together and be able to have fun and not think about our daily life,” she said on the first day of vacation. “We’re here to just relax.”
Only 40% of people with glioblastoma live beyond a year, and a mere 17% survive longer than two years post-diagnosis, Taylor said during the “Clinical Break 101” section of the Physicians for Wishes video. He plans to share teaching points on each diagnosis when a wish is granted.
Despite ongoing worldwide efforts to develop new therapies for this most-common form of brain cancer, there is still no cure for GBM. Devin has beaten the odds.
Berry was “scared to death” when she learned Devin had glioblastoma because of her family history with the disease.
“I had already lost family members to it, so I knew what was coming our way,” she said.
After two initial craniotomies, followed by radiation and chemotherapy, Devin lived a relatively normal life throughout high school until he had his first seizure at age 17, followed by a second on his 18th birthday in the middle of welding class.
This time, surgery wasn’t an option because the cancer had spread to an inoperable part of the brain.
“Now having dealt with Devin's cancer for seven years and losing my sister to breast cancer almost two years ago, I am going back to get my MSN nurse practitioner’s degree so that I may pursue a career in hospice or palliative care,” Berry said. “My personal experience has inspired me to help others going through the same challenges.”
Taylor plans for Devin’s family vacation to be the first of many wishes granted.
“The criteria is simple—an individual in need with a critical illness,” Taylor said. “Some nominees might be critically terminally ill, so it could be difficult for them to travel far for a wish; others might be relatively active still.”
Wish nominations may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When people email in a nominee, I do request to know the nominee’s top three wishes,” Taylor said. “It could be that someone has never been to a major league ballgame or would like to go to a concert, an amusement park or even an Airbnb. We are open to hearing any wish.”
Physicians for Wishes is currently self-funded by Taylor, but he invites others to help support his efforts. In addition to recruiting more physicians to contribute, anyone can support the initiative by subscribing to the Physicians for Wishes YouTube channel. Taylor also has established a GoFundMe for the project and a Physicians for Wishes channel store with logo merchandise.
“At this stage and how small this channel is, a trip to Paris is not going to happen—not to say it won’t happen in the future,” Taylor said. “If the channel continues to grow like I expect it to, the possibilities are endless.”