Caring for seriously ill children and their families is difficult work – something most people hope they never have to face. But for OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital nurse practitioner Kathy Perko, it’s a calling.
Perko, the director of the Bridges Palliative Care Program at OHSU Doernbecher, was selected to receive a Sojourns Award from the Cambia Health Foundation. The award recognizes leadership and innovation in the field of palliative and end-of-life care. It also comes with a $50,000 grant, which Perko plans to donate to the Bridges program at OHSU Doernbecher.
“Pediatric palliative care is a very specialized field, and there are few people who do it as well as Kathy does,” said Peggy Maguire, Cambia Health Foundation board chair. “What the Sojourns Award really recognizes, however, is Kathy’s commitment to sharing her expertise with others so that more children have access to the care they need at the end of life.”
In 2001, Perko and her team at OHSU Doernbecher started the first organized palliative care program in Oregon for children with cancer. As time passed, she worked to expand the program to support all children with life-limiting illnesses, and in 2005 the Bridges Palliative Care Program was born. Now Perko has started partnering with hospices around Oregon to help them better care for seriously ill children in their communities. She’s also in the process of starting a pediatric palliative care telehealth program to continue caring for children after they leave the hospital.
As one of her award nominators said, “Work in the pediatric ICU is unfortunately fraught with all too many tragic stories. Families are faced with issues and decisions that no one should ever have to consider for their child. In these times, Kathy has time and again provided families with the care, support and services that are so critical.”