You couldn’t blame Reed Capps if she never wanted to see another wheelchair in her life.
The 16 year old has taken too many rides in one, being escorted out of Presbyterian Hospital Matthews after another round of treatment or another examination for her chronic headaches. It’s something she’s gone through for more than four years; something that forced her to stop being a Providence High Panther and start being a home schooler.
It’s also something that’s given her a unique perspective on life – a perspective too valuable to waste when she knows there are others that could use her help.
Reed is a summer volunteer this year at the hospital that’s served her for so long. Her headaches are starting to dissipate, thanks to treatments at Presbyterian, allowing her to volunteer a few hours each Monday.
The group she’s assigned to? The patient transport team.
“I help take patients when they’re being discharged (and) take them to their car,” Reed explained. Patients are taken to their rides in a wheelchair when discharged from the hospital, and it’s something Reed’s done numerous times with her mom waiting outside with the car. With the roles reversed now, Reed finds she’s developed a needed talent at the hospital.
“I’m able to talk to them and empathize with them since I know what it’s like to be in pain and be a patient,” Reed said, noting that the staff at the hospital always treated her with compassion and kindness when it was her in the wheelchair. “They would talk to me, be very comforting. They cared what I was going through.”
Reed is one of a number of volunteers throughout the local Presbyterian system, helping to supplement the non-clinical staff. There’s two shifts during the summer, a morning and afternoon shift, and volunteers are in one or the other. The program allows Presbyterian to give patients a little more comfort than what the busy hospital staff can sometimes provide.
“Volunteers have that extra time to be with the patients, visiting with them and showing empathy,” said Chris Pernot, volunteer coordinator with Presbyterian Matthews for about two years now. The summer program has around 220 volunteers, with around 60 of them being youth.
Because of that, program staff write a lot of references and help point students in the right direction for where they want to be one day, she said.
“I think it’s wonderful for them to be able to put this on their college application,” Pernot said. “They’re learning so much.”
Reed’s volunteer time wraps up Aug. 10, but she’s planning to apply for more volunteer work during the hospital’s school-time program. She’ll get a chance to pick what team she wants to work with then, but she hasn’t made up her mind yet.
“I do love the patient transport team,” she said.
She also could soon return to school, assuming her condition keeps improving. Her headaches in the past have been too severe for her to function in the classroom, which also took her away from her peers. One of her favorite parts of the volunteer program is the lunch break she gets, where she can mingle with all the other volunteers just like she was back in her school cafeteria.
What’s next for Reed? College, eventually, though she hasn’t decided where to go. What she has decided, of course, is that she wants to go into the medical field, possibly to become a nurse. It would be another opportunity to pass on all she’s learned to someone else.
“I got to learn that you can always have an impact on a patient, no matter what you’re doing, how big you think your job is or even if you’re just pushing a patient,” she said.
Because Reed knows, a little bit of pushing can go much further than you think.
Mike Parks, firstname.lastname@example.org