To be honest, when I first started volunteering at UNC hospitals, I did it because a) I needed service hours for school, and b) I wanted to live out my dreams of becoming a character in Grey’s Anatomy. Now, after volunteering there for over seven months, my outlook has completely changed. Okay, I still like to imagine that I’m Meredith Grey from time to time, but that’s beside the point. My point is, what I took away from being a UNCH volunteer was so much more than just service hours I need for graduation.
One day, while I was helping on the PT/OT inpatient floor of the hospital, a therapist (let’s call her Emma for the purpose of this article) approached me, and asked for my help with a patient. I was really excited because I love to watch the staff interact with the patients, not to mention the fact that I actually got to be a part of the action (cue Meredith Grey fantasy). I followed Emma down the hall, I noticed that we were approaching a woman sitting in a wheel chair. Emma told me that the patient had brain surgery a couple months ago, and due to the severity of the surgery, she was having trouble with basic functions, such as walking. Then, Emma explained that the patient would be attempting to walk today. She also informed me that I was going to help by following her with the wheel chair, in case the patient needed a break. So, I did. I watched a woman, who had not walked in months, take some of her first steps. I watched her frustration turn into a smile so big that it was infectious. I watched her do something that we often take for granted, and it was that moment that has continued to stick with me to this day.
I’d like to think that it was not only that particular experience, but all of my experiences and the people that I met at the hospital that have helped shape my character. I’ve seen some amazing things: that woman walk for the first time in weeks, kids kick cancer’s butt, a mom holding her newborn. It was those inspiring moments that really hit me the most. I guess my point is that my experiences at the hospital taught me to value the things that we often forget to appreciate in life: health; family; friends. I want to encourage you, the reader, to do the same. Appreciate the simple things. Lend a helping hand where needed. Granted, that may not be in a hospital setting, but there are so many other organizations that could use the help. So, remove the required service hours for a minute. Find a place that interests you, that will inspire you, and that you can learn something from. That’s what volunteering at the hospital has done for me.
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