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News Room: HEALTHY NEIGHBORS: The hospitals generosity built

To download a pdf of this article, please click here.
To view the Spring 2014 issue of Healthy Neighbors, please click here.

Healthy Neighbors

On the day we caught up with Jean (not her real name) in the surgery waiting area of St. Elizabeth Ft. Thomas, she was probably not feeling too positive about her community in general. Her brother had been struck by a hit-and-run driver near their Covington home and was being operated on to repair his injuries.

But then Jean learned that many of the hospital’s improvements had been made possible through donations from people in that same community who wanted to make care better for people like her brother. It was just the kind of news she needed to renew her faith in the goodness of others. In fact, even though she had never heard of the hospital’s fundraising arm — the St. Elizabeth Foundation — news of its existence lifted her spirits.

“I guess I never realized that people did that kind of thing … but I think it’s a pretty good idea,” she said. “I mean it seems like that’s what should be happening because a community is supposed to be about people who help each other. You know, that’s what we all grow up learning to do is to help other people.”

At its very core, helping others is what St. Elizabeth Healthcare is all about. But, to do that well in today’s complex and everevolving healthcare environment requires a lot of money to keep up with the demand for topnotch medical professionals and leading-edge technology.

That, in combination with the fact that more than half of those hospitalized at St. Elizabeth do not pay for the full cost of their care, means the hospital never takes in as much money as it spends to provide services. The St. Elizabeth Foundation exists to find those in the community who are willing and able to help make up the difference.

From blanket warmers to buildings: Truly the community’s hospital
Every year, thousands across the region donate money, time, expertise and goods to make St. Elizabeth Healthcare the extraordinary provider it is so widely and regularly recognized to be. The result is that St. Elizabeth quite literally belongs to this community.

Proof of that fact is everywhere. Just stroll through any St. Elizabeth facility and anywhere you look, you’ll see something or some service purchased with donations from local residents or businesses. From the bedside radios at the Hospice Center or blanket warmers in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, to the CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit or Breast Center, much of what you see serving our community was paid for in some part by donations from our community.

“The Foundation is really the community arm of the organization,” said St. Elizabeth Foundation Vice President, Larry Warkoczeski.

“We create a pathway for individuals and companies in the community to interact with St. Elizabeth … and that support allows us to pursue services and programs we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. And, I think any time you have people give to you, it makes you better and stronger.

“That creates a stronger tie with our community, and we then also realize that there are fewer limits to what we can do as a group of people. In fact, generosity not only helps the organization receiving those gifts, but it also helps the community. Some of the most generous communities are also some of the most vibrant.”

You would certainly get no argument on those points from new parents, Melissa Dalton and Adam Armstrong. The Independence couple spent much of the first two months of their son, Dylan’s life in the St. Elizabeth Edgewood Neonatal Intensive Care Unit after their firstborn decided to enter the world 10 weeks before his due date.

Many of the lifesaving pieces of technology and furnishings from which Dylan benefited were made possible by donations to the St. Elizabeth Foundation. And though the young parents were surprised to learn that the generosity of those in their community had actually made much of Dylan’s care possible, they were quite thankful for that fact.

“I don’t know what we would have done without all this,” said Ms. Dalton. “Being able to have the lactation consultants and the nurses here has really been helpful … because I was scared because he was just so little.”

Nearby Mr. Armstrong rocked the tiny baby in a pillow-y “Kangaroo” chair, purchased with money donated to the Foundation. He said specially designed furnishings and other features of the unit had eased their sometimes difficult journey into new parenthood.

“Everything about this care has been nice. It’s nice that this is a locked unit. It’s nice that the kitchen area is there so people can visit with their families. It all makes a real difference.”

Making a difference in people’s lives is, after all, why the St. Elizabeth Foundation exists. In fact, one of the Foundation’s most ambitious projects yet — raising funds to cover half of the cost of the $30 million St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute — has, from the start, been about making a life-changing difference in this region’s collective health.

The Institute’s over-arching goal is to cut, by 25 percent, the number of cardiovascular-related deaths in this community over the first 10 years of its existence. It’s a huge goal, designed to save and improve thousands of lives, but its success will make all the difference to this place we call home.

“The beautiful thing about generosity is that people work together,” said Mr. Warkoczeski. “When you work together you appreciate each other more and understand each other better – it’s a way to break down barriers and learn to care about each other more. To the extent that we develop that, we’ll help build a stronger community overall.”

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