Spreading Christmas Cheer

All over eastern North Carolina

From toy and dog food donations (yes, dog food) to remembering soldiers who can't be with loved ones this Christmas, Vidant Health employees have definitely stepped up their game when it comes to spreading holiday cheer.

Cold? Not on our watch

Sally Jo Rhodes and Mary Beth Bergman, ultrasound technicians at Vidant Duplin Hospital, exemplified the empathy, understanding and selflessness that we strive for at Vidant Health during a recent interaction with an elderly patient who was without a coat during the cold winter. 

“We saw that she had a thin blouse on even though it was a cold day,” Rhodes said. “That’s when she told us that she lost everything in the flood.”

The patient, like many in Duplin County and eastern North and South Carolina, was devastated by Hurricane Florence in September. She lost her home and her belongings. 

So Rhodes and Bergman grabbed the coats that they showed up to work in and offered them to the patient, who was in a wheel chair. She went from having no coat to having a coat on her back and covering her legs. 

“She was so tickled,” Rhodes said. “But that’s just the way we are around here. This our home.”

Toys for everyone

To say that Vidant Health team members have been busy donating, collecting, sorting and delivering toys this holiday season would be an understatement. 

All around the region, toy drives for young patients who unfortunately have to spend Christmas in our hospitals have been in full swing. They are a reminder of how generous and thoughtful Vidant team members and our surrounding communities are.

This impact is not taken for granted either. 

“The generosity from donors took stress off myself and my husband because we didn’t have to worry about Christmas shopping for our son,” said local parent Sara Denny, whose son, Waylon, spent time in James and Connie Maynard Children’s Hospital at Vidant Medical Center after his birth. “Anything we’ve ever needed, even now, we still get through those donations. He’s still able to play with those toys even now.”

It’s truly a community effort that spans all 29 counties that Vidant supports. There were holiday baskets stuffed with toys collected at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, Christmas gifts donated to 60 underprivileged children courtesy of Vidant Chowan Hospital, Toys for Tots participation at Vidant Beaufort Hospital and so much more. At the Maynard Children’s Hospital, team members estimate that they have received five different toy deliveries per day during the holiday season.

And we mustn’t forget the animals

In the midst of countless toys being donated throughout the region during this holiday season, a few peculiar items showed up as well -- leashes, chew toys and dog treats among them.

No, it was not an accidental mix up from generous donors. Rather, it was the result of Vidant Bertie Hospital’s 2018 Holiday Charity Drive, where team members collected items at various locations within the hospital in support of the Bertie County Humane Society

The drive, organized by the Vidant Bertie Employee Experience Team, which is led by Donna Lewis-Pierce and Donnie Pope, saw dozens of helpful items donated to help our furry friends in the community. 

“The Bertie County Humane Society has a lot of animals that are surrendered,” Lewis-Pierce said. “They make sure that they are in good health and happy while they try to find them a new home.”

The Bertie County Humane Society is a self-sponsored, no-kill shelter. But outside of the obvious needs like animal food, collars, toys and more, there are less direct needs that involve an animal’s wellbeing. 

That is why Vidant Bertie also collected donations through PayPal and Amazon to help support the shelter. Team members also were encouraged to make donations to veterinarians in Martin County that help spay, neuter and treat the animals.

Stockings for soldiers

The holiday season is all about spending quality time with loved ones, but the unfortunate reality is that not everyone gets to do that. 

Members of our military, whether they are stationed on-base or overseas, are often times unable to enjoy that luxury that we sometimes take for granted. Still, they are not forgotten about. 

Team members at several clinics, including Vidant Family Medicine – Washington, the Vidant Medical Group Centralized Referral Office and Vidant Beaufort Hospital, led a Stockings for Soldiers drive that aimed to help deliver some joy to service members who could not make it home for the holidays. 

“We take great pride in ensuring that we participate in the Stockings for Soldiers campaign to honor our troops and in memory of our Veterans,” Vicki Lewis, practice manager, Vidant Family Medicine – Washington, said. “Our hearts go out to those who give so willingly and miss the opportunity that we have to spend Christmas with our families.”

The Stockings for Soldiers drive was started by N.C. Packs 4 Patriots in 2015 with the goal of providing needed supplies for deployed soldiers. Volunteers ensure that the appropriate items are included in the stockings before they are sent in mass shipments to deployed destinations. 

“We do not make that personal sacrifice so it is important for us to help ensure that we have a role in helping make those deployed know that they are remembered by showing them love and compassion during their deployment,” Lewis said.

Leading by example

Vidant Health feels a commitment to improving the well-being of the communities it serves, both in and out of the clinical setting.  We see this everyday with the incredible acts of kindness that team members show but it is even more apparent during the holiday season. 

Executives at Vidant Medical Center know the importance of building compassion throughout the hospital. They also know the importance of leading by example, which is why a group of medical center leaders volunteered at the Community Crossroads Center in Greenville on Dec. 14. 

The executive team members helped prepare breakfast for residents at the shelter. The center serves as a night-only emergency shelter for homeless individuals and helps develop a long term plan that leads to self-sufficiency. 

Because the shelter is in constant need of volunteers to help support the work it does in the community, it wrote a kind post about the Vidant volunteers on its website

“What an incredible group of folks and leaders,” the Community Crossroads Center wrote on its website. “We truly appreciate their time and compassion for helping those that are less fortunate. The generosity of the community and the leaders within community is what keeps our Center operational. There is not a day that goes by that we are not reminded of how fortunate we are to have so many helping hands.”

One final Christmas wish

Christmas came early this year at Vidant Chowan Hospital after team members made one patient in palliative care’s last wish for some quality time with Santa Claus come true. 

The patient, facing end-of-life care after several years of undergoing chemotherapy to help treat a malignant neo-plasm on the upper lobe of her left lung, was worried that she would not live long enough to celebrate Christmas one last time. A visit from Santa and her two dogs, along with some homemade ribs and cornbread, was her final Christmas wishes.

Luckily, the team at Vidant Chowan was able to work a little Christmas magic and it was not long before an artificial Christmas tree, homemade ribs from Vidant Chowan Hospitalist Dr. Matthew Rapp, her two dogs and, of course, Santa were all there to warm her spirits.  

The effort from the patient’s care team represents the best values that Vidant employees have. Whether it was Dr. Rapp cooking ribs for the patient during his personal time, FNP Rachel Ferrell and her team members bringing Christmas to the Palliative Care Unit or even a prayer shawl offered to symbolize a life dedicated to the patient’s faith, a commitment to personalized care made it all possible.

“The team at Vidant Chowan continually strives to provide the best possible care to our patients and families,” Ferrell and Rapp said in an email. “Going above and beyond to improve the patient experience is not the exception, but the rule.”

Several days later, the patient elected to go home with Hospice were she soon passed away. For all involved, it was a job well done and a final Christmas wish come true.

Holiday stories
All over eastern North Carolina
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