Why I Volunteer at Children’s Hospital

I have lived in Pittsburgh for 78 years.

When I was eight years old, on a dare, I jumped off the roof of a storage shed in our neighborhood, and ended up in the emergency room at Children’s Hospital to have my head stitched up. My dad bought me a skyscraper ice cream cone at Isaly’s on the Boulevard of the Allies to reward me for bravery at the hospital (and to remind me of my stupidity for jumping off the shed roof).

When I was a teenager, I volunteered with my parents on Sunday afternoons at Children’s in the 1950’s. I functioned as the audio-visual technician showing movies to the patients.

As a parent, with several children of my own, I continued my relationship with Children’s, as my sons and daughters were treated there for various injuries and illnesses (lacerations, broken bones, asthma, Gastritis).  My one son, who’s now in his late 40’s, as a toddler was treated for epiglottitis (a life-threatening disease that is now prevented with the HIB vaccine, which had not yet been invented when my children were small). Our whole family became part of a research program at Children’s going for regular testing.  This research study which we participated ultimately contributed to the development of the HIB vaccine, now a routine childhood vaccine.

As a professional in the field of Child Development, I worked as an administrator for a Child Care program of 300 children. Two physicians from Children’s helped training and served as consultants to our staff on health care and preventative health issues. When I retired at age 67, becoming a volunteer at Children’s Hospital was at the top of my bucket list.  For more than 10 years now, I’ve been volunteering at Children’s, primarily in the role of greeter in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Most memorable moment of my volunteer experience

The nurses, doctors, and all of the clinical staff at Children’s continually make me thankful that I live in Pittsburgh.  In my role as a volunteer, I see that confirmed over and over again each time I come for my scheduled assignment every Tuesday and Thursday.

When you are dealing with sick children, you also deal with stressed families. The social work and Child Life Departments in particular both are on the front line of dealing with that stress, when it pushes a family to the breaking point.

I remember one day, seeing the mother of a child dissolve into tears in the hallway leading from the PICU after she had received bad news about her child’s condition. The mother leaned her back against the wall, and slowly slid to the floor of the hallway, crying uncontrollably. Fortunately in that moment, a social worker was in the hallway.  The social worker immediately sat on the floor beside the distraught mother and stayed right next to her until she was able to recover somewhat from the terrible, shocking news that she had just received.

As a volunteer, to witness such beautiful human caring on a regular basis is a gift.

Since 2018, Steve has served as a Volunteer at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as a PICU Greeter completing 2,986 hours of service.