The past months have aimed a long-overdue spotlight onto the health care workers of America and the role these folks play in managing a crisis. For a while, here in New York City, each evening at 7 p.m., I’d climb out onto my fire escape to join my neighbors for a few minutes of noise and clapping. It was our way of saying a collective “thank you” to our incredible hometown first responders.
However, I’m here to remind you that their Herculean efforts did not begin — and won’t end — with the pandemic. In fact, some medical staffers have been quietly taking “care” to a whole new level. Here are three more reasons to love your health care workers.
Against All Odds, A Dying Wish Granted
When Scott Sullivan was diagnosed in August 2020 with a rare form of cancer, he was given a few weeks to live. The 50-year-old Somerset, Kentucky resident was discharged to home hospice care. His bleak situation did not dampen his ability to conjure up one last wish. The fraught circumstances in the U.S. did not dampen the resourcefulness of the nurse assigned to Sullivan, a woman named Jerree Humphrey.
The two bonded quickly. One common thread was that their kids played football for rival high schools. So, when Sullivan expressed his desire to see his son Cade don the pads one more time, Humphrey set out to make the impossible possible. She knew the three-and-a-half-hour drive was out of the question. So, Humphrey put out a call at the local airport. Would a private pilot/plane owner help make a dying man’s wish come true?
Denny Brummett, a local dentist, stepped up to the task — offering to fly Scott Sullivan to Cade’s game for free. And you can be certain Jerree Humphrey went along for the ride. “You could just not help but cry,” she said upon watching father and son embrace in a long hug just before game time.
“Words could not be put into sentences or phrases to describe how I felt at that time,” said Sullivan. “I was just so happy to see my son.”
Re-Imagining Medical Debt
More than a half-million American families go bankrupt each year due to medical debt. Dr. Demetrio Aguila, a doctor in Nebraska, has come up with a creative, compassionate way to do his part. The 48-year-old Air Force veteran/surgeon created a unique program called “M25” that allows patients to “pay” for their treatment with something far more valuable than money.
Here’s how the M25 website explains the basics:
- The patient needs surgery or healthcare they cannot afford.
- Instead of dollars, they pay for the surgery with community service hours.
- For example, a patient needs surgery on their left ulnar nerve. The insurance fee is $5,000. A patient would need to donate 250 hours of community service to pay for their surgery.
“We’ve eliminated a lot of the administrative hassle that’s associated with healthcare,” Aguila explains. “We’ve lowered the cost of healthcare. We’ve made it fair for everybody involved. Nobody loses. That is the core of the M25 Program.”
In case you’re wondering what “M25” means, it comes from Matthew 25:40: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
In Sickness and in Health
Chas Hobbs is 67 and Shirley Reason is 73. They’ve been partners for 13 years and often talked about tying the knot. Recent events, however, seemed to make that inconceivable. You see, Chas has cirrhosis and his chronic liver failure landed him in the Fair Havens hospice in the UK. Thanks to COVID-19-related restrictions, a wedding at a hospice sounded, well…like a fantasy.
Martin Hill, the Fair Havens spiritual care leader, knew it was time to improvise. “When people realize this is the wish of someone approaching the end of their life,” he said, “it’s so important to get it right.” With this in mind, he and the staff cooked up a plan, pulling it all together in just 24 hours
“We made a special wedding breakfast,” said healthcare assistant manager Julie Stott-Skold. “We even created a makeshift garter from a catheter strap and a knitted heart.”
“I knew I couldn’t take on those arrangements myself,” said the now “Shirley Hobbs.” “You can tell the staff thoroughly enjoy working here and they’ve given up their own time to help us prepare for our wedding day. The team pampered me, styled my hair, decorated the private garden outside Chas’s room, and made a cake decorated with butterflies.”
“The time they have together is precious, so it was important to make their wedding day as special as possible,” added Stott-Skold. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”
As much as these health care workers deserve our recognition and admiration, here’s a reminder: You don’t need a cape or a set of scrubs to be someone’s hero. All you need is awareness, compassion, and commitment, and you, too, can make the impossible possible.