A heartwarming video of a chemotherapy patient and his nurse singing a Christmas carol has gone viral.
Penn Pennington, 67, a veteran musician, is currently battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells, for the second time.
Earlier this month, he was admitted to the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Centennial in Nashville, Tennessee, for his first chemotherapy session to treat this bout of cancer.
Nurse Alexandra ‘Alex’ Collazo, who admitted him into the facility, learned he of Pennington’s musical background and promised they would do a jam session together.
On December 15, she brought her guitar to the hospital and the two sang a rendition of O Holy Night in Pennington’s hospital room, while Pennington’s daughter, Brandi Leath, filmed their moving performance.
A video has gone viral of musician Penn Pennington, 67 (left), a chemotherapy patient from Nashville, Tennessee, and nurse Alex Collazo, 24 (right), singing O Holy Night
Collazo admitted Pennington into the hospital and, when she learned of his music background, she promised to bring her guitar in for a jam session. Pictured: Pennington and Collazo singing
Pennington was a guitarist at the famous Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for 23 years Leath told DailyMail.com.
‘He picked up a guitar at [age] nine and hasn’t put it down ever since,’ she said.
Leath remembers her dad singing to her before bed, going backstage to see him after shows and – on her 14th birthday – her dad got country musician Jack Greene to sing Happy Birthday to her in front of the entire audience of one of his shows.
The family was shocked and devastated when Pennington was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells, in 2009.
Signs and symptoms typically include swollen lymph nodes, a painful and swollen belly, trouble breathing, fatigue and fever.
Treatment generally consists of either chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a bone marrow transplant.
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a very common cancer in the US, making up four percent of all cases of the disease.
An estimated 74,200 people will be diagnosed in 2019 and about 19,970 will die, according to the American Cancer Society.
Leath said her father had low-grade chemotherapy treatments during his first bout with the disease but, even at a lesser potency, they often left him drained.
‘He went to chemo treatments during the day and then, at night, went to play the Grand Ole Opry,’ she said.
‘I would carry his guitar to the stage because he was so weak.’
For nine years, Pennington has been in remission. However, in November, he told his daughter he was feeling unusually low-energy.
Pennington was a guitarist for 23 years at the famous Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Pictured: Country musician Jack Greene (left) and Pennington (right) in fall 2009 at the Grand Ole Opry
The musician was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the white blood cells, in 2009. Pictured: Pennington playing at Layla’s bar in Nashville in 2019
After a few doctors’ visits and some extensive blood work, he was told his cancer had returned, and he had a tumor growing on his liver.
‘This non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is strong and rapidly growing so he needs high-grade treatment,’ Leath said.
Two weeks ago, he was admitted to the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Centennial for intense rounds of chemotherapy.
Songs find words you can’t find yourself to express how you’re feeling
Nurse Alex Collazo of Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Centennial
That’s where he met nurse Collazo.
‘I always like to ask new patients: “Tell me something fun about yourself,”‘ she told DailyMail.com.
‘He said: “Well I’ve been skydiving 1,252 times” and I was like: “Holy Cow!”‘
Collazo, 24, said she was surprised when Pennington asked her the same question in return. Patients didn’t usually turn her query around on her. She told Pennington she played guitar.
After learning about his background as a musician, Collazo promised to bring in her guitar so the two could have a jam session.
He started feeling lethargic in November and, after doctors’ visits and blood tests, he was told his cancer had returned. Pictured: Pennington playing at Layla’s bar in Nashville in 2018
After six chemotherapy treatments, Pennington was declared in remission. Pictured: Pennington, second from left, playing at AJ’s bar in Nashville in 2018
Two days later, she visited Pennington, who was starting to feel better from his treatments.
First, the two sang Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love.
‘And then he said: “Let’s do another one” and he said: “Let’s do a Christmas song,”‘ Collazo said.
‘O Holy Night was the first one that popped into my head.’
Pennington’s daughter, Leath, was in the room with them and immediately began recording on her phone.
‘I don’t know how my long dad has, but I wanted to catch as many memories as I could,’ she said.
‘When they were done I was like: “That was amazing, I gotta share it.” So I put it on my Facebook and made it public.’
As of Monday afternoon, it’s been viewed more than 681,000 times and shared more than 10,000 times.
‘Not in a million years did I imagine it would get to this point,’ Collazo said.
‘I feel like I’m dreaming. It’s such a good feeling to know that I’ve given this profession, even just for [a] week, such a good name.’
Pennington was admitted it Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute two weeks ago, where he met nurse Collazo (left and right). She said that the moment Pennington picked up a guitar, he became much happier
The video has gone viral with more than 681,000 views and more than 10,000 shares. Pictured: Pennington (left) and Collazo singing O Holy Night
Leath said she tried to reply to every single comment, but soon they topped more than 1,000.
She said that the moment her dad started playing the guitar, he seemed happier than he’d been in weeks.
‘In his mind, he was not in the hospital,’ Leath said.
‘Sitting there, listening to him play, we didn’t feel like we were in a cancer hospital. We felt like we were at home.’
Collazo added that she feels that music has a certain healing power.
‘Songs find words you can’t find yourself to express how you’re feeling,’ she said.
‘Music is so powerful and when you’re sick, you can’t do what you normally do at home to cope. So you try to bring [patients] their passion.’
A GoFundMe page has been started to help cover the cost of Pennington’s medical expenses. As of Monday, more than $3,200 has been raised out of a $5,000 goal.