Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Meet CoxHealth's 2015 Prestigious Partners

One act of compassion can be the most powerful thing we do.

Each year at the Employee Recognition Banquet, we honor our Prestigious Partners -- staff members who have gone above and beyond for our patients and our colleagues.

This year, the recipients of the Prestigious Partners award all have something in common: They found unique ways to show extraordinary compassion in the course of their daily work. John Hursh, our VP of Human Resources, points out that this year’s honorees illustrate how each action we take can make a big difference for those around us.

“Things done from the heart are the things that make an important difference to others, lift spirits and inspire all of us to give thought to what we too might do to make someone else’s day a little better,” Hursh says.

Our three Prestigious Partners will be recognized at the banquet, set for 6:30 p.m., April 23, at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield.

Meet our three recipients below:

Katie Mader, FDC secretarial

Katie Mader was working the evening shift as a secretary in the Neuro-Trauma ICU at Cox South when she learned about a patient who kept repeating that his best friend needed help. The patient was talking about his dog that was at home alone with no food or water.

“When you leave the house every day you don’t plan on getting in a car accident,” says Mader, who is now a float medical secretary at Ferrell-Duncan Clinic. “The patient kept asking about his dog and was very concerned.”

Mader wasn’t able to get in contact with the patient’s family. She got the patient’s permission to discuss the situation with police to see if they could help. Mader spoke with several people at the police department in Hollister where the man lived and she also emailed and called the Humane Society.

“I never realized how difficult it was to break in someone else’s home to save an animal,” jokes Mader.

The police needed evidence of the patient’s story before they could enter the patient’s home, so Mader got the patient’s permission to share the needed information.

Everyone agreed to meet the next morning at the patient’s home to get the dog. So after working until midnight, Mader traveled to Hollister that morning.

When the police broke the door in, they saw that the dog was a large German shepherd. It was safely removed and kept at a shelter until a family member came from out of town. Mader heard later that the dog was very thirsty and hungry after the rescue.

“I called the hospital and talked to the patient and he was so happy and thankful that his dog was safe and in good hands,” says Mader. “I lost an animal once so I knew how the patient felt. Animals are like children, a member of the family. This patient felt the same way about his dog. It was a very emotional time.”

Casey Sumner, Occupational Therapy, Cox Monett

Casey Sumner, occupational therapist, knows what caregiver fatigue looks like. She’s seen it countless times on the faces of parents of children with special needs she works with at Cox Monett Rehab and Sports Medicine.

“I can’t tell you how many families I see that dad and mom tell me they barely have time for anything but sleeping and eating because taking care of their child takes everything they have,” says Sumner. “One mother with two children with special needs told me she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving her children with just anyone. She’s joked that I could come to babysit them anytime.”

When Sumner’s co-workers were discussing how they could make a difference in their community, Sumner suggested a parents’ night out event.

The entire department was involved in planning a fun and safe event for the children and their siblings to give parents time to relax without worrying about their kids.

Staff and their families volunteered to help with decorating the gym that a local church offered for the event and planning several activities and snacks.

The free event was three hours long on a Friday night. An anonymous donation of restaurant gift certificates let the parents eat out for free.

One family drove 45 minutes to participate. Sumner says everyone had a great time – the children, parents and the staff.

“We had so many people there. It was amazing the number of volunteers. We were able to give one-to-one attention for kids who needed it,” said Sumner. “Parents said over and over they just couldn’t believe someone would do this for them and it was so nice to just relax.”

Dr. Sarah Smitherman, Springfield Inpatient Physicians

Life is not a fairy tale. That fact was made real for Dr. Sarah Smitherman when a little girl came in to the Cox South emergency room.

“It’s a part of pediatrics,” she says. “You sometimes take care of kids who are neglected or abused but this was a very bad, obvious, overt case.”

She talked with the child as they waited for a family member to arrive. The movie “Frozen” was playing in the room. The film had just come out on DVD, but merchandise like costumes hadn’t hit stores.

“She said she wanted an Elsa dress,” says Dr. Smitherman. “I said, ‘Oh, I’m looking into learning how to make one for my daughter’ and she said with these big eyes, ‘Will you make me an Elsa dress?’ Before I even thought about it, I said, ‘Yes!’ and I realized I had no idea how to make an Elsa dress!”

That night she went to a fabric store to find material. She went home, got out her new sewing machine – “You have to understand, I don’t sew. I can sew a straight line. I had no pattern, no measurements. I had fabric but I was determined to have something for this kid.”

She worked into the night using a dress from her daughter’s closet as a guide.

“It was no work of art, trust me, but it looked like an Elsa dress when it was done!”

The child was overjoyed. She paraded around the Peds unit in the gown and cape and a crown that staff had found.

“She was so happy. When she left she was wearing it. At least she was happy for a little while.”