April 22, 2024

Living the Mission: Providing comfort to leukemia patients

By Vicki-Ann Downing ’21G

Michael Healy Flanagan ’01 was diagnosed with leukemia at the end of his sophomore year at Providence College. During a more than three-year struggle that included two bone marrow transplants, he lived with courage, integrity, and faith. In November 2001, two days after Rev. Mark Nowel, O.P. presented him with his diploma in his hospital room, he died at age 23.

Michael Healy Flanagan ’01

Michael, an honors student and three-sport athlete in high school, always wanted to be a Friar. His parents, Michael Flanagan ’67 and Kathleen Flanagan, and his sister and brother-in-law, Christine Flanagan Griffin ’91 and Stephen Griffin ’88, never forgot the support he received from PC — how history professor Richard Grace ’62, ’17Hon. tutored him, and how Chaplain Rev. Joseph Barranger, O.P. visited him in Boston and celebrated his funeral Mass. 

The Flanagan family wanted to share with others the support and care they received during Michael’s illness. In 2002, on the first anniversary of his death, they raised $25,000 through a catered event and silent auction at their home in Barrington, Rhode Island, and established a foundation in his name. 

Over the course of 22 years, with Christine as director of its 13-member board, the foundation has provided almost $1 million to make patients with leukemia more comfortable. 

The Flanagan family, from left, Michael Flanagan '67, Christine Griffin Flanagan '91, Christina's daughter, Georgia Griffin, and Kathleen Flanagan.
The Flanagan family, from left, Michael Flanagan ’67, Christine Griffin Flanagan ’91, Christina’s daughter, Georgia Griffin, and Kathleen Flanagan.

At Tufts Medical Center, Miriam Hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, and Roger Williams Hospital, the foundation has renovated family rooms, purchased infusion chairs and massage tables, granted nursing scholarships, offered grants to families in need, supported Reiki training for nurses, and provided computers for waiting areas. Each patient, upon admission, receives a signature canvas comfort bag containing a deck of cards, soft tissues, a warm fleece hat, lotion and lip balm, a soft toothbrush, a music card, a journal — items the family knows help to ease the ordeal of leukemia patients undergoing treatment. 

Oncology social workers at each hospital discern the needs and work directly with Christine, who promptly brings requests to the board for consideration.

“The mission of the Michael H. Flanagan Foundation is to provide comfort,” Christine said. “Mike’s legacy of courage, integrity, and faith has helped many while keeping his memory alive.” 

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