From The Gazette

Bill Young: Their smocks are blue, their smiles golden

By their colours ye shall know them, those ubiquitous Lakeshore General Hospital volunteers whose sky-blue smocks glow like comforting beacons for all who suffer, from patients to the worrying classes.

Readers who have spent time within the walls of the Lakeshore know all about the blue-smocked volunteers.

Perhaps you recall the gentleman in Emergency who noticed you shivering and said, “Can I bring you a blanket?” And did – draping you with a covering so warm and cuddly that you smiled, almost in spite of yourself. His smock was blue.

And the TLC lady on 4 West with the treat’s trolley who popped in on you, alone in your room, asking, “Anything I can do for you, dearie?” and then fluffed up your pillow before heading on her way. Hers was a blue smock also.

Or the blue-smocked ladies and men who organize and maintain the Bargain Book Corner, ensuring that only the best selections make it to the shelves. You were amazed by the choice, and the price.

And the other ladies in blue smocks who keep the Windmill Boutique turning. Bursting at the seams with the latest in women’s fashion, along with gifts and personal items, the boutique was a hidden treasure waiting for you to discover it. Remember. You bought your red purse there, and two frocks and bits of jewelry.

When you became flummoxed by the seemingly secret rituals that surround the hospital’s blood-taking clinic (arguably the most efficient in the neighbourhood), with its “take a number,” “look for your number on the lighted sign,” “listen for your number over the loudspeaker” sequence, how grateful you were to discover the man in blue who gently led you through the ordeal, always smiling.

And I almost hesitate to mention how much you adore the Windmill Café, where the soups, salads, hot meals, deserts – and your favourites, the toasted bacon sandwich and the hand-crafted grilled cheese confection – are the envy of the best restaurants in town, and come at a fraction of the cost. All are prepared and served by, as you well know, ladies in blue smocks.

And these are only the blue-smocked volunteers you met. There are many more, in fact, some assisting in such high-intensity areas as oncology g and hemodialysis, others working anonymously behind the scenes for the benefit of patients. Collectively, they form the band of more than 250 warm-hearted volunteers that make up the Lakeshore General Hospital Auxiliary.

The auxiliary was founded 50 years ago, when the hospital itself came into being. Its mission was to do exactly what it does still – make life a bit less frantic for patients and their families, what current auxiliary president Barbara Armbruster describes as “a patient-centred focus.”

“Our purpose,” she says, “is to help make patients as comfortable as possible, to be pleasant and cheerful in even the toughest situations.” She adds: “A kind word goes a long way.”

And lest one doubt my objectivity, let me confess that when it comes to these blue-smocked volunteers, I have none at all!

For much of this past year, beginning in January, my wife, Sandra, has been a regular guest of the hospital. She spent 45 days as an in-patient, in addition to an endless streak of outpatient visits to ambulatory services, consults, scans and X-rays.

She is well now, but throughout the adventure Sandra and I came to appreciate just what a wonderful, magical service the volunteers perform. To us, they are the hospital’s equivalent of the Stanley Cup. They are that brilliant.

So let’s raise a glass to these good folks in their sky-blue smocks. Congratulations! Happy anniversary! Merry Christmas! May you enjoy 50 more years smoothing out the wrinkles. And thank you.

Your smocks may be blue – but your smiles are golden.

For information about the Lakeshore Auxiliary call 514-630-2225, Ext. 2119.

Bill Young is a long-time Hudson resident.

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