Our team of 16 Sexual Assault Nurses have touched the lives of many patients over the years and, likewise, they have touched our hearts, too.
MaryAnne Chavez, who is both a provider with us here at ABQ SANE and Para Los Niños, fondly remembers one such patient. First joining ABQ SANE in 2010, MaryAnne has not only provided sexual assault and pediatric services to the people of Albuquerque, but over the years has also served as a Primary Care Provider and Family Nurse Practitioner for them, too. It was in her role as a PCP that she first crossed paths with Brandi.
"She was a patient of mine for three years. Such a caring, generous heart," MaryAnne remarked when questioned about Brandi. "She just loved helping people."
Brandi, who was born and raised in Belen, was a New Mexican that not only cared about her loved ones, but also her community, too. She was passionate about helping others, and in 2019 passed away from breast cancer at the age of 37. MaryAnne, acting as her PCP, had been there for her initial concerns. "Brandi was diagnosed with breast cancer at a very young age. She asked me to check out a lump on her breast. She felt something there. Her dog had been acting weird for awhile too, sniffing at her chest, constantly jumping at her... little did we know that it was smelling the breast cancer. Stage four,"
MaryAnne stated, reminiscing on the patient that touched her life. But as she continued, what she remembered most about Brandi wasn't her diagnosis; it was her selflessness.
"Brandi fought a very valiant, hard fight, but lost her battle two years ago. In her memory, her mama has decided to make Brandi Bags, which are just bags to brighten someone's day - and in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, she brought them here. And she's also making some for Para Los Niños. Mostly so we can remember Brandi herself, because Brandi was all about helping people."
But what are Brandi Bags, exactly? The answer is bittersweet: they're care packages for others, all handmade with love in memory of Brandi herself. Containing items like flip flops, reusable water bottles, Chapstick, pins, lotion and more, Brandi Bags are meant to be an unexpected ray of light on a dark day for people. Brandi's mother, Patricia Gregor, and her sister, Heather Benavidez, created Brandi Bags not only as a tribute to their loved one, but also as a continuation of the generosity she had in life. They wanted to honor her memory with the same altruism that Brandi was passionate about, and to celebrate National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Brandi's family constructed these bags full of goodies to help support the sexual assault victims of Albuquerque. Both ABQ SANE and Para Los Niños were lucky enough to receive a donation of Brandi Bags to gift to our patients. Brandi's family donated them with the intention of spreading her kindness across the city, and Patricia and Heather knew that she would've wanted to do the same after her passing, too.
The generosity and impact of this donation cannot be understated. Commodities such as flip flops and lotion go a long way for our patients. During sexual assault, personal items like shoes can be damaged; and for our patients experiencing homelessness, replacing broken personal items can be an outright luxury... so imagine the unexpected joy of receiving a Brandi Bag. Imagine the impact that a new pair of flip flops, toiletries like hair pins, water containers, etc. can make for someone's disposition. And, thanks to Patricia and Heather's donation, imagine the difference that a Brandi Bag can make for someone's healing after their sexual assault.
Brandi's love and devotion to helping others couldn't even be conquered by death, and ABQ SANE is incredibly grateful to have her spirit now live on with us in the form of Brandi Bags. Thank you, Patricia and Heather!