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Do Something Special

Every Christmas, the staff of Cardiac Rehabilitation “adopts” someone for the holiday season, showering the person with food, gifts, and care they may otherwise not receive. The chosen individual is always memorable, but last year’s recipient is especially dear to the staff. For Christmas 2007, they chose a patient they all knew and loved – an 80-year-old man named Ernie.

Ernie had been in a maintenance program for several years, and his sense of humor and joke-telling won over the entire staff: Lori Barron, Julie Stucki, Lori Griffin, Virginia Waters, Staci Hodges, and Abby Schmitt. One day, he told “Lori B.,” as he always called the cardiac rehab team leader, that his wife was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He took care of her at their home, and her condition had progressed to the point where he could no longer get her in the car himself. He missed their drives, he said – he used to love taking her to New Harmony because the tranquil scenery calmed her down.

When Lori heard his story, she approached her staff with an idea: What if they picked up Ernie and his wife at their Mount Vernon home and drove them through the Fantasy of Lights? Everyone agreed, so Lori rented a large van with her own money, and the entire staff rode together to Ernie’s home.

They arrived carrying home-cooked meals in individual containers, which they left for Ernie in his freezer. On his refrigerator was every single Christmas card the unit had ever sent him, each one bearing a different photo of the staff.

The group loaded Ernie and his wife into the van, driving as slowly as possible once they reached the Fantasy of Lights so his wife could enjoy the scenery as long as possible. And after that night, Ernie spread the word about the staff’s acts of compassion. Although he stopped coming in for rehab due to the care his wife needed, he called or stopped by for weekly visits. When he visited the office, he would tell other patients in the waiting room, “See those girls? They’re the ones who cooked for us and took us to Fantasy of Lights.”

Ernie passed away the next July, but his memory remains precious to the Cardiac Rehab staff, who found joy in their Christmas “adoption” of him. “Ernie was very special to us. We had a close relationship with him,” says Lori. “Patients – and staff – just loved him.”