Cancer Care

Nurse credits father’s lifesaving care at Methodist with influencing her career

Published: June 10, 2024

Tori McElligott, BSN, RN-BC, recently celebrated nine years of working as a nurse on the Medical Surgical Unit (8 South) at Methodist Hospital.

In a supplemental role, she’s able to spend most of her days at home with her toddler son. But on the days she works, her father provides child care – something that may have not been an option if he hadn’t received lifesaving care from Methodist nearly 15 years ago.

It’s been a full-circle journey for McElligott.

“I’ve always been proud to say I work for Methodist Hospital,” she said.

Randy Ross and Tori McElligott
Randy Ross and Tori McElligott


Beating the odds

During her junior year of high school, McElligott lost her grandmother unexpectedly. Just a month later, McElligott’s father, Randy Ross, experienced a seizure that doctors thought was caused by the stress of his mother-in-law’s passing. A second seizure sent Ross to the hospital in the family’s hometown of Grand Island before an ambulance transported him nearly 150 miles east to Methodist Hospital. 

In Omaha, Ross’ health care team discovered a small mass on his brain. Additional scans revealed a mass in his lungs, and he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Ross was admitted to the Progressive Care Unit at Methodist Hospital – which was on 8 South at the time – and his family was told he might have only three weeks to live.

“It was a pretty traumatic experience for my entire family,” McElligott said.

According to Methodist cardiothoracic surgeon John Batter, MD, the five-year survival rate for stage 4 lung cancer patients is 5-8%, signaling that Ross didn’t have much more time to live.

His team of health care providers went to work to find the best care plan. They discussed his case at the Methodist multidisciplinary tumor board, where cardiothoracic surgeons, neurosurgeons, radiation therapists, oncologists, pulmonologists and support services staff worked together to form a road map for his care.

First, Ross underwent a Gamma Knife procedure – a form of focused radiation therapy – to remove the brain tumor.

The next step was to remove the part of his lung where the cancer was present. Dr. Batter said that it wasn’t guaranteed that Ross would have a good outcome from surgery, but it gave him the best chance of surviving.

“This is a good example of aggressively pushing the envelope regarding cancer care, especially in stage 4 lung cancer,” Dr. Batter said.

Dr. Batter performed the surgery and successfully removed Ross’ right upper lobe, where the cancer was located.

Ross spent close to a month in the hospital, where he received respiratory therapy, chemotherapy and additional radiation therapy.

Despite his family initially being told he might have a few weeks to live, Ross was able to head home after his extended stay in the hospital. In October, he’ll be celebrating 15 years of being cancer free.


‘I wanted to be part of that team’

As her senior year of high school was approaching, McElligott considered a career in dental hygiene. But after witnessing the care her father received at Methodist, it was an easy decision to go down a different path.

“I wanted to be a part of that team,” she said.

McElligott attended Nebraska Methodist College (NMC) and graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in nursing. 

After graduation, she started working nights on 8 South for about a year and a half before switching to days. 

“It’s like full circle because I remember doing my homework in the family lounge on that floor when my dad was in the hospital,” she said. “And, ironically, that was the floor I ended up working on.”

McElligott recalls how her father’s health care team advocated for him and worked to provide him the best possible cancer care. And that example helped shape the way she cares for patients.

“Among the countless attributes that define Methodist, teamwork and advocacy were the two that impacted me the most during my dad’s cancer battle,” she said. “And I continue to use these today during my professional career.”

McElligott knows that she has the unique opportunity to create meaningful relationships with her patients.

“Advocating for my patients also allows me to build rapport with them,” she said. “I know I have not only made an impact on their life, but they’ve also impacted my life, and that’s truly the most rewarding part of nursing.”


Full of gratitude and pride

McElligott didn’t know if her father would be able to see her graduate high school because of how sick he was. But thanks to his care team at Methodist, Ross not only saw her graduate but also watched her graduate nursing school, walked her down the aisle at her wedding and now experiences being a grandfather.

“I will forever be grateful for all the health care professionals who cared for my dad and saved his life,” McElligott said. “And I am forever proud to say I work for Methodist Hospital.”

Tori McElligott family
From left: Randy Ross, Connie Ross, Tori McElligott, Liam McElligott, David McElligott.

About the Author

Anthony Robinson, a content strategist for Methodist Health System, joined the marketing team after spending over five years as a college athletics public relations professional. He enjoys being able to use his writing ability to tell compelling stories that embody The Meaning of Care

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