Caring for Caregivers

October 01, 2010 | Brittany Russell

For Adventist Health staff, providing compassion and a gentle touch comes with the territory. However, some acts of love and compassion from employees aren’t aimed at patients but toward each other. The experience of one employee at Adventist Medical Center in Portland, Oregon, is a testament to this mission.

Betty Tamerius works in the intensive care unit, and has been at AMC since 1965. Quiet and hardworking, she has never been one to bring her troubles into work. But the person beneath that hardworking façade needed help.

After an incident at home that threatened Tamerius’ safety, she moved in with Holly Freshour, an ICU charge nurse with whom she has worked since 1977. One day while returning home to get her mail, Tamerius discovered her husband dead. She called 911 and then called Freshour, who came over immediately.

In the midst of this tragedy, Freshour noticed that Tamerius' house was in a state of neglect and disrepair. Her 1940 era home had never been updated because her husband, who suffered from mental issues, wouldn’t allow anything to be repaired. Freshour had no idea about Tamerius' home prior to that day, but knew that she, with the help of coworkers, had to do something.

“We are the ones who should help her,” says Freshour. “After you work with people for a long time they become family. You take care of family.”

Holly rallied coworkers from the ICU and respiratory therapy, and set up "Betty’s Home Makeover Fund.” She was shocked when people who didn’t even know Tamerius donated money and services. Coworkers came forward who were willing to help with electrical, plumbing and contracting needs. Siding for the house was donated, as well as new kitchen cabinets. Freshour was touched to see people sacrificing so that Tamerius could have a safe place to live.

Crews from AMC put new siding on the house, sanded the woodwork and the walls inside, installed drywall, painted, gutted and replaced everything in the kitchen and bathroom, put in new light fixtures, installed new windows, and painted the front door red.

“To me,” says Sharon Crosby, coordinator of the employee assistance program at AMC, “the red door is symbolic of all the love that has gone into this house.”

Tamerius, who is now filled with hope over her new home, feels this love. She says, “Deep down it means a lot to me and I want to thank everybody who donated something or their time.”