The inside story of how a Utah nurse went to help at an NYC hospital and came back to a thank you package from Taylor Swift
Whitney Hilton’s story spread to Good Morning America, CNN and other media outlets in early May after she posted about receiving a package and hand-written note from Taylor Swift on social media.
The idea started with a birthday video.
Whitney Hilton arrived home from New York on the day before her 30th birthday, where the registered nurse had been working in a Long Island hospital overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. Her sister and best friend wanted to welcome her home with something special.
In the week leading up to her return home, they had put together a video for Hilton with messages from her friends and family, wishing her a happy birthday.
But they knew that there was one person that Hilton would be especially ecstatic to hear from — Taylor Swift.
And that’s exactly what happened. By the time Hilton returned to Utah, there was a package waiting for her from Swift herself.
Hilton was over the moon as she opened the package that was filled with merchandise from Swift’s “Lover” album, but when she posted pictures and video to social media, she still didn’t expect the reaction she’d get. This reaction included over 11,000 likes on her original post, and calls from NBC, CNN and more to share her story.
But opening the package from Swift was like an “out of body experience.” In the video that Hilton shared to Twitter, she screams, jumps around her apartment, and at one point lies down on her kitchen floor.
“It’s funny, because I’m actually a relatively calm person by nature,” Hilton told the Deseret News.
The package included t-shirts, a blanket, necklaces, and even a pair of socks, according to Hilton. But the thing that made her the most excited was at the very bottom of the box—a handwritten note from Swift.
“The moment I saw the card is where I lost it,” Hilton said.
Hilton said that she has been a fan of Swift almost from the beginning, when the singer was just starting out as a 15-year-old country singer, and that she’s traveled across the country to see her perform.
“We call ourselves ‘Swifties,’” Hilton told the Deseret News in an interview, referencing the name that fans of the pop star use for themselves, “and I feel like I’m kind of at the top.”
Hilton’s sister and friend reached out to Swift’s publicist directly, as well as through the star’s social media channels, to see if she would make a surprise appearance in their birthday video, something they knew was “100 percent impossible,” Hilton said.
But then, after reaching out every day for six days, Swift’s publicist responded with a simple request — Hilton’s mailing address. Soon came the entire package from Taylor Swift.
Hilton said she could tell the note was personalized because it included details Swift would have had to find by checking Hilton’s social media. Swift wrote that she had seen a picture of Hilton at one of her concerts, and also thanked her for the work she had done in New York City.
“I can’t thank you enough for risking your life to help people and for spreading the message loudly that people need to hear, about taking this seriously,” Swift wrote.
But the part that Hilton is hanging onto the most is as the end of the card, where Swift wrote, “I would like to give you a hug next time and thank you in person.”
Hilton had tickets for Swift’s Lover Fest that was scheduled in Boston later this year, but Swift canceled all of her tour dates in 2020, telling her fans “what’s important is committing to this quarantine.” The concert has not yet been rescheduled.
Hilton is hoping Swift will remember what she said.
“I’m just holding onto some sort of hope that she has some sort of notebook somewhere that says, these are the people I’ve promised to see,” Hilton said with a laugh.
The Twitter reaction
Hilton shared the video and photos to Twitter “naively,” she said, thinking that only her fellow Swifties would be interested.
“I thought I might get like 100 likes,” Hilton said.
But within 20 minutes of posting to Twitter, she had gotten a message from NBC. Ten minutes later, she was getting a phone call from CBS.
Though she said it was initially exciting, she admitted it was also “kind of scary” to see the way that her story spread so quickly. Hilton considered taking down her posts, but decided to leave them up because she wanted to make sure that Swift received the praise and thanks for what she had done.
Swift has a history of reaching out to her fans, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. In March, Swift sent payments of $3,000 to fans who had posted on social media that they would not be able to pay their bills.
Swift’s generosity and relationships with her fans is part of what draws her fans to her.
“Any type of thing like this, we just love to see it,” Hilton explained. “Because then we’re like, oh my gosh, she’s out there, she still cares about her fans.”
Though it’s been a couple of weeks since receiving the package from Swift, Hilton says it’s not an experience she’ll likely forget.
“I keep telling people, I’ll never let it go,” Hilton said. “Like, I am still on that high.”
Helping those in need
Like Swift, Hilton has spoken out about the need for people to take the coronavirus pandemic more seriously.
A registered nurse at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Hilton went to New York City to help at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, which had been overwhelmed by patients. Hilton said she wasn’t prepared for what she saw in New York.
“On a scale of one to ten, if I tried to predict what I was going to experience, I thought, well, I’ll try to prepare my mindset for a ten—ten being like the craziest thing I’ve ever seen, just like crisis mode,” Hilton said. “And I can kind of tell you it literally was a 50.”
Returning to Utah, Hilton said that her biggest takeaway from her time in New York was “how blessed we are,” because in her perspective, the crisis in New York City’s hospitals could have just as easily happened in Utah.
Hilton recalled moving patients to a newly built ICU unit and observing that the patients were “of every race and gender” and all different ages.
“I remember thinking to myself, this could be me,” Hilton said. “This could be my sister, my best friend, my parents. . . . I just remember looking around thinking, if you could see what I see, you would do anything in your power to prevent this.”