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Cancer survivor and former UT Health Tyler patient will light Christmas tree

Tyler, Texas (November 24, 2021) Last year, Jeff Hickerson faced an acute myeloid leukemia diagnosis and received chemotherapy treatments at UT Health Tyler, each round involving a week-long hospital stay. Hickerson’s cancer is now in remission, and on Nov. 30, he will have the honor of lighting the hospital’s outdoor Christmas tree during a public ceremony.

The event will begin at 5 p.m. when Santa arrives in his sleigh, with live reindeer, on the hospital’s front lawn. The tree-lighting ceremony is set to begin at 5:20 p.m. with Hickerson illuminating the tree, carrying on a 33-year tradition of former patients lighting the tree. There also will be refreshments and holiday music performed by Dr. Dan Kyzer, Adjunct Instructor of Guitar at the UT Tyler School of Performing Arts. Santa will be at the event until 6:30 p.m. and free parking is available in both parking garages. Gates open at 4:30 p.m.

During his time in the hospital, Hickerson formed relationships with the staff on 6 North, the UT Health Tyler Poindexter Oncology Unit. Through those relationships, he was inspired to donate a ceremonial cancer bell to the unit for patients to ring after their final treatment. “I wanted to make sure that future patients who get as close to them as I have, or have those same feelings, are able to share that experience with them,” Hickerson said.

“Most of our nurses took care of Mr. Hickerson at one time or another during his multiple treatment stays, and the bond that was made between our staff and Mr. Hickerson followed past his hospitalization,” said Tawana Burgess, RN, OCN, oncology nurse at UT Health Tyler. “Mr. Hickerson’s dream with donating a bell for our hospital is to be able to share that joyous moment with those who have spent so much time caring for cancer patients and to help instill courage and hope for all who hear it ring.”

Event details

What: UT Health Tyler tree-lighting ceremony

Where: UT Health Tyler, 1000 S. Beckham Ave., front lawn

When: Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021

Time: 5 – 6:30 p.m.

Visuals: Santa, live reindeer, holiday refreshments, tree-lighting

About UT Health East Texas

UT Health East Texas provides care to thousands of patients each year through an extensive regional network that includes 10 hospitals, more than 50 clinics, the Olympic Plaza Tower, 13 regional rehabilitation facilities, two freestanding emergency centers, regional home health services covering 41 counties, an EMS fleet of more than 50 ambulances and four helicopters, and a comprehensive seven-trauma center care network, including the region’s only Level 1 trauma facility.

As a partner with The University of Texas System, UT Health East Texas is uniquely positioned to provide patients with access to leading-edge research and clinical therapies while training and educating the next generation of physicians and other health professionals. The nationally recognized UT System also includes UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, as well as three other major university medical centers located throughout the state.

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