St. E’s Pink Glove video: a triumphant journey

By William K. Alcorn


Expect to smile and be touched when you watch the St. Elizabeth Health Center Pink Glove Dance Team video on YouTube made to raise awareness of breast cancer.

The video, starring a cast of some 50 St. Elizabeth employees and physicians, also tried to raise money for the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center on St. Elizabeth’s Belmont Avenue campus by winning the Medline Industries Pink Glove Dance Team Video contest.

The St. Elizabeth video did not win the $10,000 top prize. However, with 5,843 votes, it was No. 1 in Ohio and 18th among the 139 teams from hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other organizations in 40 states and Canada that participated.

With more than a half-million votes cast, Medline announced Friday that Lexington Medical Center in West Columbia, S.C., won first place with 61,054 votes; Highland Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., took second with 58,000 votes; followed in third place by Victoria Hospital, Prince Albert Parkland Health Region in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada, with 38,000 votes.

Medline produced the original Pink Glove Dance video that generated more than 13 million views on YouTube and inspired countless pink-glove dance videos and events around the world. This year, Medline, which makes the pink exam gloves worn by the dancers and produces medical equipment, created a Pink Glove Dance competition and opened it up to groups across the U.S. and Canada to win cash prizes for the charity of their choice.

The Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center was the St. Elizabeth dance team’s charity.

“St. Elizabeth is proud to be a contestant in the national ‘Pink Glove Dance’ video competition. A few weeks ago, hospital employees, nurses and physicians joined together, put on pink gloves and danced on our hospital campus to raise awareness about breast cancer,” said Linda Smith, surgical/perioperative services clinical educator at the hospital.

The voting has ended, but the St. Elizabeth video can still be viewed by visiting and clicking on Pink Glove Dance Competition.

The St. Elizabeth Pink Glove Dance Team members, who danced to the Katy Perry tune, “Firework,” includes Dr. Rashid Abdu, whose wife, Joanie, died of breast cancer and for whom the new breast-care center is named; and Judy Castronova, a nurse anesthetist, a breast-cancer survivor.

“Many of us, or our family members, friends or co-workers have been affected by cancer.

The video is dedicated in remembrance and in honor of all whose lives have been affected by breast cancer,” Smith said.

The St. Elizabeth Pink Glove video shows the journey of one breast-cancer patient, portrayed by Chris Byknish of Masury, a registered nurse at the hospital, who takes her character from when she learns of her diagnosis, through pre-op and the surgical arena to going home.

Julius “Jules” Sims of Campbell proposed making the Pink Glove Dance to hospital management and is the creative force behind the production, writing the story and doing the choreography and choosing the background music.

“I thought the original Pink Glove dances were great. I took it to another level and told a story,” said Sims, a licensed practical nurse for 10 years at the hospital.

“I knew how I wanted it to look in my head. It came out different, but it was great. I was surprised and happy,” Sims said.

A couple of rehearsals were scheduled, but not everyone could attend, so the video was basically filmed without much rehearsal in four to five hours on Sept. 10 by the hospital’s media department.

“It was literally thrown together, but everything worked so well. I just wanted to be involved. I didn’t expect to be the patient,” said Byknish, who graduated from Brookfield High School in 1976 and in 1980 from the St. Elizabeth School of Nursing with her two sisters.

“I just happened to be working the day it was filmed, so I just jumped right in,” Castronova said.

A 1977 graduate of McDonald High School, she was diagnosed with breast cancer on July 7, 1998, had a bilateral mastectomy 10 days later and then chemotherapy and breast-reconstructive surgery.

Castronova, who received her bachelor in nursing degree from Youngstown State University and her master’s degree from LaRoche College in Cranberry, Pa., discovered her cancer through self-examination.

It’s important to participate in anything that raises awareness, and it’s really great to have this type of activity this month — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month — as a reminder to people of the need for early detection through mammograms and self-examination, Castronova said.

Cancer patients need a surgeon who understands and is caring and compassionate, Smith said.

Castronova, upbeat and positive like the St. Elizabeth Pink Glove Dance Video, said cancer is not a death sentence.

“I’m living proof of that,” she added.

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