Carolyn Schmitt expected Christmas of 2000 to be anything but merry and bright. The Deaconess employee’s husband of 27 years, Jim, had suffered a heart attack earlier that year, and with medical bills piling up, the couple didn’t have the extra money to spend on presents for each other or their two teenagers. In the spirit of giving, Carolyn’s unit, the Progressive Care Center (PCC), decided to adopt her family for Christmas that year. Her coworkers took her to lunch and presented her with a basket of gifts, ranging from Playstation games for her son to new clothes for her daughter. “We sat in front of the Christmas tree and cried,” Carolyn remembers, “because otherwise we wouldn’t have had Christmas.”
Carolyn’s hard times – and the compassionate acts of her coworkers – didn’t end there. Her husband passed away in August 2001, leaving Carolyn as the sole provider for her family. They struggled for years to make ends meet, and five years later, Carolyn woke up one morning in agonizing pain, unable to get out of bed. An MRI showed that she had a herniated disc in her back, requiring serious surgery.
Her three-month recovery and absence from work meant that her family’s only paycheck stopped coming. Six years after adopting the Schmitt family for the first time, the Progressive Care Center staff took action once again to help Carolyn. In addition to collecting gifts, such as grocery store gift cards so she could buy Christmas dinner, employees (many anonymous) donated their own vacation time payout time to ensure she had an income. “Staff treat each other like family,” says Peggy Dossett, Progressive Care Center administrator, and Carolyn says she will never forget the compassion the PCC showed her.
“Words can’t describe how you feel when your luck is down and someone is kind enough to lend you a helping hand,” she says. “Deaconess will always have a special place in my heart.”