Greg Geier could hardly believe his eyes. Walking back to his office from the construction site, he spotted on older man lying face down on the sidewalk in front of Valley Medical Center.
The man was alone, and on this quiet morning, nobody else was in the immediate vicinity. Greg and his colleagues quickly rush to his side. The man had just left the hospital after a visit with his doctor, and apparently tripped.
“He was disoriented,” Greg said, “and banged up pretty bad.”
Greg quickly found a VMC staff person, who alerted the Emergency Department and arranged for his immediate transport. In just a few minutes, the man was gone.
Greg caught his breath, a carried on with his busy day. As the Piping General Foreman for F.W. Spencer and Sons, Inc., a major HVAC and sheet metal sub-contractor for the new VMC hospital wing, he had plenty of work to keep his mind occupied.
But something didn’t sit right with Greg.
He asked himself why this 80+ year old man in poor health was by himself at VMC? Did he have no family to accompany him to his appointment? And what would become of him now all alone in the Emergency Department? He didn’t even know this man’s name, but he couldn’t get the image of him laying facedown on the cold, damp concrete out of his mind.
“I just kept thinking about the guy and it really bothered me,” said Greg.
He also couldn’t help think of his own father, also in his 80s, who was recently injured after a nasty fall on a busy street. It was total strangers who helped get him to safety. Whatever it was, Greg decided that he needed to make sure this man would be ok.
So Greg returned to the hospital and spoke to VMC staff in the ED. He learned that the man had been hospitalized in the Medical Short Stay Unit (MSSU), where he would remain for the next few days, recovering from his injuries.
Greg found his way to the unit and explained who he was to the nurses. They were somewhat skeptical at first. Greg, after all, was not a family member or friend. And a construction worker looks nothing like a candy striper. But seeing no harm, they led Greg to the proper room.
Greg introduced himself.
The man was named Richard. A World War Two veteran, he used to ferry supplies via truck for the Army between the Bay Area and ports in Southern California. Now in his mid-80s, Richard was living alone in San Jose, his family long since gone. He explained that he had been visiting the doctor that day, when he tripped leaving the hospital. He was grateful for Greg and his colleagues for their help, and touched that Greg would even bother to visit him again in the hospital.
As the two men continued to speak, Greg learned that the very next day would be Richard’s 85th birthday. After a few more minutes of conversation, Greg said goodbye and left for the evening, thinking he had brought closure to the events of that morning.
And yet, once again, Greg just didn’t feel right. On the ride home, his thoughts drifted back to Richard, alone in the hospital – and on his 85th birthday, without family or friends.
So when Greg awoke the next morning, he decided to see Richard again. But this time, he would bring along a birthday card filled with the money he had in his wallet.
“I thought that maybe he could take himself out to dinner with it,” Greg said.
He grabbed a company sweatshirt for Richard and trekked over to his room in the MSSU.
This time, it was Richard who couldn’t believe his eyes.
“He was just beaming,” said Greg. “He was very thankful.”
The events caused a small stir on the unit, as nurses and other MSSU staff crowded into the room to see the scene unfold. By this time, the story of the friendly construction worker who had come to Richard’s rescue had brought smiles all around.
“It just felt really neat,” said Michelle de la Calle, R.N., the MSSU Nurse Manager. “Here is a person who is physically building our new hospital, but cares so much about our patients too.”
“It was just one of those things,” Greg said. “It felt like a calling. I just had to do it.”