BOSTON – Eleni Stephanopoulos a bright young Greek-American from Boston, a registered nurse at the eminent Massachusetts General Hospital in the bone marrow transplantdivision will run in the Boston Marathon on Monday, October 11.
This is the first time Stephanopoulos is running in the Marathon and she is doing it for a good cause: help, as she said in an interview with The National Herald, “the organization Caring For A Cure, For Patients. For Families. For Research. For a Cure.”
Caring For A Cure was founded in 2011 by the nurses of the Adult Hematology/Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant program at Mass General with a goal to improve the journey of patients and families with cancer through research, resources, and awareness. Since they began, they have raised over $1,000,000.
The funds raised have been directed to things both big and small – from flying-in a bone marrow donor from halfway around the world, to sending caregivers out to dinner, to impromptu celebrations of anniversaries and birthdays unexpectedly spent in the hospital, to making sure new leukemia patients have real tissues.
The goal is to ease the journey and uplift the spirits of patients and their families through support, connections, and research.
Eleni Stephanopoulos received the scholarship of The National Herald from Antonis Diamataris during the banquet of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of New England in 2015 for the Greek Independence Day. Shown are Demetrios Mattheos, Miltiadis Athanasopoulos, and Vasilios Kafkas, President of the Federation. (Photo: TNH/Archive/Theodore Kalmoukos)
Stephanopoulos said, “if I know that my clients need something I go to the people who run the organization and ask them for a gift for my patient.” She explained that, “it can be anything – a gift card for Christmas for them and their family – to help uplift them.”
Stephanopoulos is the daughter of the proud parents of Stephanos and Panagiota Stephanopoulos. Six years ago, Stephanopoulos received the scholarship of The National Herald at the banquet of the Federation of the Hellenic-American Societies of New England for the Greek Independence Day.
Speaking about the run in the Marathon she said, “I am really excited. I am little nervous but I am really excited. I trained a lot so I am ready to run. I have been training ever since the beginning of June. Three weeks ago, I ran twenty miles. I like running. I didn’t like it when I was in college – I couldn’t even do a mile – but now I like it very much.”
Eleni Stephanopoulos with her cousin Katerina Kafkas, who volunteered to work at the ICU for COVID patients at Massachusetts General Hospital in 2020. (Photo provided by Eleni Stephanopoulos)
What Stephanopoulos does at the Division of Bond Marrow Transplant takes a lot of humanity and love and care for her fellow humans. She said, “we take care patients when they first are diagnosed with leukemia. Sometimes they can be very really sick and they automatically stay in the hospital for about a month. After we get them into remission they need to have a bond marrow transplant, so once they have a donor they come to our floor for a transplant.”
Told she must be a strong woman, she said,
“I like to think so, but sometimes it is very hard because we get to know our patients very, very well and they end up becoming family – especially now with COVID our patients can’t have visitors so we are their family, we are their nurses, we are everything. We spend the most time with them when they have the hardest time of their lives.”
Speaking about becoming a registered nurse rather than a doctor, she said, “I think the roles are very different. I appreciate obviously the role of doctors – they are very smart, very knowledgeable, but I feel the relationship I have with people as a nurse is a lot stronger than what doctors have with their patients because I am one-on-one with one or two patients in the shift. I am with them all day – I know them and I feel I add value to that relationship with my knowledge. I think doctors have a lot in their plate – they have a lot of patients that they take care off and they don’t have that relationship that I have with the patients.”
Every time a patient becomes well Stephanopoulos feels so good. She said, “it is the greatest feeling when you get to send those people home after they have the transplant. What we do is that sometimes we line the hallway with all the nurses and we clap when they leave. We are overwhelmed and we also cry.”
Eleni Stephanopoulos with her boyfriend Ryan Mcguigan at the banquet of the Organization Caring For A Cure in 2019. (Photo provided by Eleni Stephanopoulos)
Asked what attracted her to nursing, she said, “from a very young age my father was telling me ‘I think you would make a good nurse.’ I was so young I didn’t really know what that meant, but my aunt Linda Kafkas and my cousin Katerina are nurses and as I was growing up hearing all their stories it made me want to have a career like theirs, that they love so much. I am very happy.”
Speaking about her Greek identity and origin Stephanopoulos said, “I am so proud of it. I love going to Greece as much as I can and when I can, every other summer. Last I went it was in 2019 – we didn’t go in 2020 because of COVID and this past summer I didn’t go because I worried about COVID, but next summer I will go. I attend church. Obviously, I practice the Greek Orthodox faith. Every year I go to my grandmother’s and I make koulourakia, baklava, cookies.”
Asked what she treasured most about her Hellenic heritage, Stephanopoulos, who speaks Greek fluently, said, “everything.”