The Washington Post

Whatever Happened to ... the teenage cancer survivor who took his nurses to his prom?

In 2003, Matt Stasik, then 17, took his oncology nurses to the prom. They are, from left. Kimberly Minus, Susie Raeder, Kathleen O’Grady, Kelly Printz and Charawn High. (2003 photograph by Sarah L. Voisin)

When patients in the emergency room at Inova Fairfax Hospital tell Matthew Stasik how they hate IV needles or feel awful from cancer, the emergency medical technician often says he understands their fear and pain. He also offers hope.

In 2003, The Post wrote about how Stasik, then a 17-year-old cancer survivor from Springfield, attended his high school prom with five of his pediatric oncology nurses from Inova. Then a senior at Alexandria’s Bishop Ireton High School, Stasik had spent so much time in the hospital since he was 11 — he beat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and then leukemia — that he said he felt closer to the nurses than to any particular girl at school.

Eight years later, Stasik is still cancer-free, a graduate of Penn State University, a full-time EMT in Inova’s adult emergency room and a volunteer EMT for a Fairfax County rescue squad. He plans to become a paramedic and is considering medical school.

Stasik, 25, returned to Inova Fairfax Hospital in 2004 to work during summers and holiday breaks from college, escorting patients to scans and tests. Since joining the ER in February, he starts patients’ IV lines, draws blood, changes beds and assists doctors and nurses. He attends to as many as 150 patients during a typical 12-hour shift.

Stasik said the same “clowny” humor that made him bond with his nurses and got him through years of cancer treatments helps put patients at ease.

“They’re being treated by someone who truly understands what they’re going through,” Stasik said. “If I hadn’t gone through what I did, I don’t think I’d have that connection.”

Iwan Poeraatmadja, an ER nurse manager, said Stasik has a friendly, caring style.

“He’s very positive,” Poeraatmadja said. “He does whatever needs to be done without any hesitation.”

Susie Raeder is the only prom date who still works at Inova. Raeder, of Lorton, said patients’ families often ask about the hallway photo in the pediatric oncology unit showing her pinning a boutonniere onto Stasik.

“It gives people hope,” said Raeder, 37. “I say, ‘I did this 10 years ago, and he went to college, and your child will get there, too.’ ”

Katherine Shaver is a transportation and development reporter. She joined The Washington Post in 1997 and has covered crime, courts, education and local government but most prefers writing about how people get — or don’t get — around the Washington region.


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