WESTCHESTER, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Being thankful at this time of year is often difficult for people spending the holidays in the hospital. But one nurse who works with heart transplant patients at Westchester Medical Center has found a way to lift their spirits during the holiday season.

Registered nurse Susan Young works with people who need new hearts and must stay in the hospital while they wait for a donated one. With the help of her two daughters and her co-workers, Young decorates the patients rooms and prepares a traditional Thanksgiving meal — complete with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, rolls and desserts — just in time for the holidays, CBS2’s Elise Finch reported.

Young started the tradition three years ago, after watching patients struggle when they had to spend the holidays in the hospital.

“It’s a very rough time, they’re critically sick and you never know,” Young said. “It’s day by day.”

Young also invites former patients who have already received new hearts, and pays for the dinner out of her own pocket.

“Everybody else is having a good time doing things, your family is together, you’re not there that’s why it’s important that we get them through it,” Raymond Liverzani, a heart recipient, said.

Former Mets shortstop Bruce Fitzpatrick, 72, is currently at the medical center waiting for a heart transplant. He said it cheers him up to talk baseball with his fellow patients.

“All of us aren’t together this frequently we’re out in the hall walking around more than sitting down and chatting with each other,” Fitzpatrick said.

The food, friends and festive decorations aren’t just nice gestures, they’re a way to lift a patient’s spirits. And cardiologists say keeping patients positive is crucial to their survival.

“It’s key that the patient remains hopeful and in good spirits going towards the big operation, as opposed to being depressed,” Julio Panza, Chief of Cardiology at Westchester Medical Center, said.

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