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Teen Leukemia Patient at St. Luke’s Boise Gets Surprise Phone Call from Joe Biden

By Anita Kissee, News and Community
March 29, 2018

Cierra Shaffer video chats with former Vice President Joe Biden while enjoying a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone (Vice President Biden’s favorite ice cream flavor).

Some days, a lot of magic happens at St. Luke’s.

Cierra Shaffer, a leukemia patient at St. Luke’s Boise, recently said that one of her wishes was to meet and share ice cream with former Vice President Joe Biden.

Although it may seem unusual for a 17-year-old, Cierra says she admires Biden for the work he’s done to support cancer research after the death of his son, Beau Biden, who died from brain cancer.

Cierra is in her final round of chemotherapy at St. Luke’s. Throughout her several months of treatment, Cierra and her care team have filled her room with photos of Biden to serve as inspiration.

Her nursing and caregiving staff even wrote a letter to Biden inviting him to come to Cierra's upcoming graduation from Fruitland High School.

The nurses' invitation was amplified through social media, and within hours the tweets and Facebook posts had been viewed and shared around the country with the hashtag, #cierrastrong.

Less than 24 hours later, Biden’s team reached out to St. Luke’s to say the vice president had seen #cierrastrong, and while he wouldn’t be able to make a trip to Idaho in the near future, he offered to video chat with Cierra.

On Tuesday morning, Cierra’s nurse surprised her with Biden’s favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip.

Wearing a Biden mask, Cierra's favorite teacher ran into the room with the former vice president himself on the phone.

“I was like, holy cow! A little Idahoan girl talking to a big shot vice president ... I'm like dang!" Cierra said.

Several members of Cierra’s care team went to her hospital room to share the news about the surprise phone call.

Cierra and Biden talked for 15 minutes. During that time he invited Cierra to Washington, D.C., to take a tour with him when she feels better and is up to the trip. He also encouraged her to invite him back to Idaho, calling it “one of the most beautiful states in America.”

Cierra was so overwhelmed that she says she doesn't quite remember exactly what former Vice President Biden said.

"It was exciting. I'm pretty sure he told me I'll beat this, but I already know that. Ha! Just an extra boost, I guess."

As if the call wasn’t enough inspiration for Cierra and her care team to get through these final weeks of treatment, later that evening former Vice President Biden retweeted one of the posts featuring Cierra and her excitement. He offered even more encouragement and praised her nurses, “…as I’ve always said, if there are any angels in heaven, they are nurses. You’ve got a great team of them there making sure you stay #cierrastrong.”

Cierra's story now has been in the news both locally and nationally, from KTVB to CNN to many more.

About The Author

Anita Kisseé is the Treasure Valley public relations manager for St. Luke’s Health System.