On a recent morning in the physical and occupational therapy room, stroke patient Tashana McLeod took a break from her weight-lifting exercises to sit with her new friend, Mike Carey, one of Albany Med’s “Friendly Visitors.”
Carey said he’s very proud of how hard McLeod, whose left side is partially paralyzed, has been working at her rehabilitation.
Carey understands how important inspiration is to a person undergoing rehabilitation. He struggled with these same exercises following an accident three years ago that left him paralyzed from the neck down. After many months of recovering and rehabilitating at Albany Med, he promised himself then that when he got well he would volunteer to help other people get well too. He’s keeping that promise.
Albany Med’s Friendly Visitor program, offered through Volunteer Services, has been in place for 10 years and offers patients the chance to spend time not only with people who have been in a similar health situation, but also with a visitor willing to fetch a newspaper or magazine, go for a walk down the hall or just talk.
“Sometimes patients can open up more easily to a neutral visitor and relax in a way they can’t with relatives who may be anxious or worried,” said Kelly Morrone, manager of Volunteer Services.
Patients are referred to Volunteer Services by nurses like Patty Shaw, a nurse practitioner caring for vascular patients on D5-N. Shaw has arranged for many volunteers to visit her patients and is particularly impressed with how volunteer Kathleen Lane, who lost her right leg to bone cancer when she was 19, has helped amputees.
“Kathleen is delightful! She’s a force of nature. When patients get to know her and see how well she manages and enjoys life, she gives them courage and hope. They believe her because she’s been where they are,” said Shaw.
Lane herself is more modest. “I just tell people not to feel sorry for themselves—that amputation is no big deal. You may lose a leg, but you still have your whole life, you’re still a whole person,” she said.
Volunteer Cate Harvey, a graduate student studying chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, plans to apply to medical school and wanted to gain experience.
“What I enjoy most about volunteering in the hospital is the social atmosphere—the constant intercommunication among patients, doctors and nurses is very different from the quiet environment of the chemistry lab,” said Harvey.