View All News >

Moments that Matter: Matt Connors

January 16, 2024

Moments that Matter

On July 2nd, 2016, I received a phone call I never wanted to receive. When my younger sister called me at roughly 2 AM crying, my first thoughts were that she was hurt or in trouble. But when she was able to speak, she said, “Can you please come home? Dad collapsed.”

As we were on the phone, the EMTs arrived to take care of my father and my sister told me that they were taking him to Harrisburg Hospital – now UPMC Harrisburg. Fortunately, I was at a friend’s house a short walk away from the hospital and was able to meet them there. When I arrived, I found out that my dad had already coded once and that his caregivers were still trying to determine the cause. Since we have a family history of cardiac disease, we all assumed his heart was the cause.

I stayed with my dad for an hour or two and he seemed stable, but scared, which broke me to witness. Although my mom asked us to head home and get some rest while they waited for a room to open up for him, I had barely walked into the house when she called again and said we needed to come back. Quickly, because my dad had coded a second time.

When we got back to Harrisburg Hospital, my dad was in a room in the ICU. I remember sitting next to him, holding his hand, and trying to make sense of everything that was happening. I never thought I would be in this situation. My father was 57 years young. There’s no way, I thought. The hardest part was that I could tell he was terrified but trying to remain strong and calm for the rest of us. All I could do was pray and trust that his care team would do everything possible to help.

Fortunately, after a few days in the cardiac ICU, my father was discharged. The root problem wasn’t his heart, but his stomach. He continues to see his doctors as directed and turned 65 last weekend. I’ll always be grateful for the team of incredible caregivers who looked out for him during this frightening time.

Years later, my experience came full circle through an important relationship with a patient who became a friend – Robb Hanrahan. I started working with the Foundation in June 2020, and Robb had a cardiac episode on June 17th, 2020 that brought him to UPMC Harrisburg, where his cardiac care team saved his life. As a popular news anchor, Robb was a beloved member of the community, and his story was shared everywhere.

As the months went by, I followed Robb’s recovery as best I could, until one day I was determined to get in touch and learn more about Robb’s experience with our team at UPMC Harrisburg. I reached out on Facebook, honestly not thinking I’d get a reply. But as it turned out, Robb was eager to share his story. He replied something along the lines of, “Matt, yes! I have been trying to get in touch with someone from UPMC to share my gratitude. This is wonderful.”

We connected a few days later by phone and scheduled a meeting in his home the following month to record his video testimonial. While there, Robb and his wife, Stacey, asked about the possibility of having a chance to thank his care team in person, perhaps for the one-year anniversary of Robb’s second chance at life. I worked for weeks to see if this would be possible and to plan this meaningful reunion.

Over the next several months, my relationship with Robb and his family grew. We would chat on the phone once or twice a week, exchange text messages, etc. They became friends in the leadup to June 28th, 2021, when we held a patient reunion for Robb, his family, his care team, and others at UPMC Harrisburg. Many tears and hugs were shared that day, as were smiles and thanks.

As I watched this reunion take place and felt the palpable gratitude in the air, it really hit me. Back in 2016, I was a scared 25-year-old who wanted nothing other than for his father to survive. Now, I was on the other side, watching Robb’s wife, Stacey, and their son, Vann, hug and thank the team that did everything in their power to save her husband and his father. Had I known the impact having gratitude and sharing it had back in 2016, I would have written down every single person’s name I came across during my father’s days in the hospital. I was now able to be a spectator and a small part of organizing that same opportunity for a loving family.

To our hospital teams, patient #1 has the same goal as patient #17 of the day – nurse them back to as close to full health as possible with compassion and care. From Robb’s family to my family, one of those patients, only a few years apart, was Dad.

Robb passed away in 2022. I will forever be grateful for the friendship we formed and the insights into life he provided. Gratitude changes everything.

Written by Matt Connors

Major Gifts Officer, UPMC Pinnacle Foundation

Matt and Dad
Me and my dad
Robb Reunion Group Shot
Robb Hanrahan's Reunion
Matt and Robb
Me and Robb