Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks and Remembering

One person who has made a difference in my life has been Dr. Samuel Levey, one of my professors when I was a student at the University of Iowa College of Public Health. In recent years, I have enjoyed being a guest lecturer for Sam’s class. I gained a great deal from my experiences with him. It is fun to be in his classroom again. His students are always bright, engaging, and inquisitive. This year was no different.

A student asked me what my best and worst days have been as a hospital administrator. My response to “best days” was easy; there are too many to count. For the past 21 years I have witnessed on a daily basis so many selfless acts of compassion and healing, so many wonderful employees, physicians, volunteers…and more. The stories of women and men reaching out to others in the name of caring and healing are endless.

The worst day was so devastating, it still haunts me almost three years later.

On the morning of January 15, 2007, I received a phone call from the hospital that one of our employees had died while working that morning. Randy Criswell was our carpenter. His past experience as a private contractor and his wonderful personality made him a great employee. He worked with us at GRMC for just a year, but I had known him outside of the workplace for years. We coached our kids’ little league teams together. He was the baseball expert…I mostly stood at third base and hoped I would make the right decision sending the runner home. I really enjoyed him as a friend and a co-worker. I was thrilled when he decided to work at the hospital.

When it snows here in east central Iowa, we have an “all hands on deck” approach to clear the snow. A big priority for the medical center is our helipad. It must be cleared so helicopters can land to save lives. That morning, Randy was helping his colleagues in facilities management with snow removal. While clearing the snow from our helipad, Randy fell from the second story landing pad, and was killed instantly. We don’t know why the safety fencing failed to keep him from falling. Randy was a husband and father of three children. He was a committed man—committed to his family, committed to a job well done, and committed to helping others. He always had a smile on his face and a hand reaching out in support of those around him. He was my friend. And he was a valued GRMC employee. Randy made a difference. He has been missed.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed Randy’s death we pulled together as a hospital community. We cared for one another. We cared for Randy’s family. We finished the home Randy was remodeling for his family. We pledged to remember Randy for his commitment to pride in craftsmanship. We pledged to make GRMC a safer place to work. We pledged to be inspired by his spirit of compassion for others.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving, I am reminded that life is fragile. Each day is indeed a gift. Randy’s all too short, but extremely well-lived life, is an inspiration to me to live life to the fullest. I try to take nothing for granted and truly savor every moment – which can be challenging given the hectic pace of life today. As I reflect on the blessings of the holiday this week, I plan to remember all those who have made a difference in my life and redouble my efforts to do what I can to make a difference for others.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

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