George Haines is kindhearted, intelligent, humble and grateful for everything. The only problem with “Mr. George,” as he’s affectionately known to many around him, is that there is only one of him.
Thirty-four years ago, Haines got snowed in at Unity Hospital. To pass the time and help out, he started pushing the gift cart around. During that time, an ambulance came in, and because Haines had first-aid experience, he was put to work. He’s been a volunteer at Unity Health System, now part of Rochester Regional Health, ever since.
Haines has volunteered in the Emergency Center for 29 years and counting. Although he retired from Eastman Kodak Co. as a truck driver, Haines has always had a calling for helping people through medicine. While serving in the Army during World War II, he contracted malaria when he was in the Philippines.
“The doctor came up to me and told me I was going to be his ward boy,” Haines recalled. “He said, ‘You’re the healthiest one in here.’ So he taught me how to give shots to all the others in the ward.”
When Haines came home from the war, he became a volunteer firefighter. Haines had more calls than any other man, volunteer or paid staff, at the time. He asked to pick up shifts so he could learn as much as possible, delivering three babies before he had taken a first-aid class.
“Because I was a truck driver for Kodak, the chief asked me to drive the fire truck. But I wanted to spend my volunteer time as a medic on the ambulance,” Haines said. “I would work overnight shifts, go home in the morning and then get ready for Kodak.”
Although Haines once pushed a cart at Unity and even volunteered for a short while with his late wife in the endoscopy unit, his heart belonged in the emergency department.
“ED is the place to be,” Haines said with a smile. “One of the doctors who used to work in the department told me, ‘The emergency department is run by doctors, nurses and George.’”
The staff loves Haines for many reasons. For one, he is their No. 1 pillow stocker. Pillows are a hot hospital commodity and often in short supply in the emergency department. As soon as Haines checks in first thing in the morning, he takes a stretcher and makes his rounds, collecting all extra pillows from the other floors and returning them to the emergency department.
Haines is ready for action when an ambulance comes in. He gets the room ready and helps the patient get settled, staying until a tech or nurse comes in.
“They’re in a strange situation and they don’t know what is going to happen and they’re scared. So I stay with them to calm them down, and I enjoy being with them until they calm down,” he said. “If they’re cold, I get a blanket.”
Haines likes learning people’s stories and helping out in any way he can. As a World War II veteran, he has a special place in his heart for other veterans. Once a participant in Honor Flight, he has become more involved in the last three years.
“When I got back from my Honor Flight trip, I said I want to help out with this,” he said.
Now Haines is an Honor Flight ambassador. He reaches out to other veterans to secure their participation at events designed to raise awareness and generate funds for Honor Flight. He’s always on the phone recruiting veterans or often just calling to check on them.
Haines, who turns 91 in April, said he is honored to receive a Health Care Achievement Award for his volunteer work, but the award he likes best is when someone says “thank you.”
Haverly Marie Erskine is a Rochester-area freelance writer.
3/18/2016 (c) 2016 Health Care Achievement Awards Special Section. Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.