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Novant Health UVA Health System Team Member Newsletter

Remembering George: the heart of the hospital

Long-term care patient at Haymarket Medical Center remembered fondly as a member of the family

In early spring 2018, when 45-year-old George entered the care of Med Tele at Haymarket Medical Center (HAMC), there was no initial sign that he would leave such a lasting impact.


After suffering multiple strokes and seizures, George, a former championship weightlifter, was unable to perform basic motor functions such as walking, talking and eating. The strokes and seizures also caused brain damage, which led to a shift in his personality making him more aggressive in interactions with those around him.


“When George first got here, he was very combative and we had to teach him how to walk, talk and eat again,” said Verna Oliver, nursing technical assistant at HAMC. She added jokingly, “he had a few ‘special’ words that he loved to use when he got here, but overtime that changed.”


Thanks to the Med Tele team’s expertise, and care and attention from other team members at the hospital, everyone noticed a change in George’s demeanor. He was able to walk, talk and eat on his own again and was constantly looking to interact with those around him.


“We eventually moved his room so he was closer to the nursing station. He needed to see what was going on,” said Nicole Garrett, nursing technical assistant at HAMC. “Before we knew it, he was waving and saying hello to everyone that walked by.”


As a long-term care patient, George spent a total of six months at the hospital and was considered family by many that knew and worked with him, this is something that team members say meant a lot to him. In his personal life and prior to entering the hospital, George selflessly dedicated his time to taking care of his mother, who had fallen ill at the same time.


“Not long after George and his mother got sick, his father, who suffered from diabetes, had to go to North Carolina to have his leg amputated and George and his mother went with him,” said Oliver. “That’s the kind of person George was. In his own life, he always took care of those around him, no matter what. That’s why I think he bonded with so many of us when he got here, because he knew we were dedicated to taking care of him.”


The true care and dedication of the HAMC team was evident when they embarked on the journey to get legal custody of George, a necessary step to get him the care he needed.


He arrived at HAMC without health insurance and his mother, who was also ill, was unable to provide adequate care for him and he was also unable to be transported to a rehabilitation facility. After speaking with George and his mother, all parties agreed that placing George in the custody of the hospital was in his best interest so he could get the care and services he required long term.


Once a custody agreement was reached, and while George waited to be moved to a long-term rehabilitation center, HAMC team members took it upon themselves to make George’s hospital stay as memorable and comfortable as possible.


“George was with us for a long period of time and he truly became a part of our family,” recalls Donna Pfost, director of nursing. “I remember many of the team members going out of their way to do little things that would make him smile. I recall him telling us that his favorite meal was from KFC, so a few times, staff members would go there and pick it up for him. Then, when it was getting closer to winter, he told us that he loved the snow and hadn’t been able to see or feel it for a while.  Staff members went outside and brought him back some snow. The team in the kitchen always made sure to bring him his favorite meals and when he asked to watch team members get their flu shots, our security team let him sit in the room. Everyone here truly embraced George and went beyond our service standards. For that, I can’t thank them enough.”


After six months at the hospital, George was discharged to a long-term rehabilitation center, where he spent the final two weeks of his life.


“It was a sad day when George left the hospital, we knew he wasn’t ready to go, but even when he was at the nursing home, we would go visit and take care of him,” said Oliver. “He really was a funny guy, even though he could be a bit stubborn and say a few ‘special’ words that we can’t repeat. Honestly, he was a good person. He loved music, especially Christian music. He liked Toby Mac and on Sundays, he loved to watch Joel Osteen and football and during the holidays. He also loved watching Hallmark movies. But more importantly, George always took care of the people around him.”


George passed away peacefully two weeks after leaving Haymarket Medical Center. Various staff members from HAMC attended his funeral to celebrate his life.


“He was a blessing. Learning about him and how he had helped so many people around him was a blessing to me. It’s people like George that, even on bad days, make everything worth it. He was a great person and he was family,” said Garrett.


In memory of George, HAMC team members raised money to buy a brick paver for the front of the hospital by the bench he loved.


“George loved that bench. We would always take him out there and he would sit there for hours. When we were at his funeral, I spoke with his mom about getting the brick paver in his memory so that she could come sit on the bench next to him and she immediately started to cry,” said Garrett. “I told her he was a special person to many of us here and that we will always remember him.”


In addition to raising money for the paver, staff members will be donating money to the Matt Duval Scholarship Fund, which supports Christian athletes and a fund that helped George early on in his weightlifting career.


“George got started with weightlifting with the help of a Matt Duval Scholarship and we know that he would want to help other kids in a similar situation,” said Oliver. “We want to contribute what we can to the fund in hopes that it will help other kids in the same way that it helped our friend, George.”

Posted on Friday, May 24, 2019