Thursday, September 3, 2015

Health care is a family affair for mom, sons

For the McCullah family, their introduction to health care was one of necessity, not of choice.

About 15 years ago, Lisa McCullah’s husband, Gary, had undergone a series of medical challenges, ranging from a rare heart condition to a back surgery. Like many families, the McCullahs found themselves spending more time than they’d like in and out of the hospital.

Even though those experiences were stressful, Lisa says they exposed her to the miraculous work that goes on daily in health care. Seeing that compassion first hand changed her life.

“Everyone at the hospital made me feel like we were a part of making him better,” she says. “With all the doctors and nurses encouraging him, I thought, ‘This is a cool place, I’m going to see if I can find a job here.’”

At the time, she had been driving a school bus for 13 years. She had never given any thought to health care, but she was determined to get her foot in the door at CoxHealth.

Lisa found an open position in the Mailroom and began working there. Before long, she met Sterile Processing Director Ellen Gray, who encouraged her to consider joining her team.

That was nine years ago. Lisa took Ellen up on the offer and quickly learned the ropes in the department. When Lisa’s sons were about to begin college, she suggested that they apply at CoxHealth and make working in Sterile Processing a family affair.

Today, you can find Lisa working the overnight shift, her older son, Ellis, working weekends and her youngest son, Alex, working around his college schedule during the week.

“They were both born here. Ellis is the 1987 model and Alex is the 1989 model,” Lisa says with a grin. “We work well together. I’m still the boss at home, though.”

When Ellis joined CoxHealth five years ago, he was looking for part-time work during college, not a career. He began in the storeroom and in just a few months, Ellen offered him a full-time position, with flexibility around his classes. That, of course, left an opening in the storeroom, which Alex quickly applied for.

In the years since, working in the department has inspired health careers for both of the boys. Ellis graduated with a business degree from Missouri State University and is set to take on a new role in Surgery, as a technician employed by Stryker.

Meanwhile, Alex is enrolled at Ozarks Technical Community College, working on prerequisites to pursue radiology at Cox College.

Ellis and Alex say the experience in Sterile Processing opened their eyes to career possibilities and they both credit Ellen with encouraging them and helping them arrange their schedules around school.

Lisa says Ellen’s commitment to education has benefited her as well as she began taking classes to expand her skills.

“I’ve definitely grown and working here has brought out my passion for education,” she says. “Health care can be intimidating because you have one chance to make it right. You have to stay focused and stay driven. There’s so much to learn and I love it.”

Alex and Ellis say it’s both humbling and rewarding to play a behind-the-scenes role in providing care for our community.

“This is a vital part of the hospital,” Alex says. “Sterile Processing is like a root for a tree – it’s incredibly important, but not always visible.”

Ellis agrees: “Each day you can see what we did, with the stocked shelves and the case carts. It’s great to see all the surgeries going on because of the work you did.”

“When you clean instruments and know they will be used to cut someone open, to do heart surgery for example, you have a lot of respect for it,” Alex says. “You respect the work and you take pride in it.”

Lisa says she couldn’t be happier about making the move into health care. Mr. McCullah is doing “fabulous,” and she credits his recovery to the employees, doctors and nurses the family worked with at CoxHealth.

“If it wasn’t for the employees making you a part of the healing process, we never would have considered working here,” she says. “I would have never thought that I could be working alongside them.

“This really has been the experience of a lifetime. It’s better than a dream: My husband is doing great, my boys got an education and great jobs. Life is good.”

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