UAB: A Home Away from Home
From Mobile to Birmingham
“When we first came to UAB Spain Rehab, we were scared as can be,” says Laurinia Parker, wife of UAB patient Johnnie Parker. “We came from Mobile, Alabama, after my husband got paralyzed," Laurinia says. When Johnnie wasn't making progress, the Parkers came to UAB.
Laurinia and Johnnie made the drive from Mobile to Birmingham in November 2011. The trip was her first time driving on the highway—Johnnie rode in the ambulance, which broke down in Montgomery—but they eventually made it to Birmingham. “I said, Lord, this is starting off kind of bad ... because you have to go through the bad to get to the good,” Laurinia recalls.
Settling Into Spain
Once at UAB, the Parkers settled into their room at Spain and met Clinical Assessment & Reimbursement Coordinator Jacqueline P. Wyatt. “This young lady was so nice,” Laurinia says. “She arranged a cot to be set up in my husband’s room for me, and then came by the next morning to show me around the different restaurants and treated me to lunch. She didn’t even know me, but she wanted to make me feel comfortable. It really touched my heart.”
Fabulous Food Services
“I can’t emphasize enough the excellence and expertise that the food services group put into making the patients happy,” Laurinia says. “You don’t always find that at a hospital. The service was magnificent.”
The Parkers worked with several dietitians and dietitian techs who made a positive impression. During their first week at Spain, Dietetic Technician Clinton Carr particularly impressed Laurinia. “I think the drinks in the drink machine were a dollar and a quarter, and I was trying to get a bottle of water,” she says, concerned about the price. “Clinton happened to be there and said, ‘Ms. Parker don’t you worry about it. You are at UAB and if you love water, let me see what I can do.’ Do you know, he brought a case of water in for me from the store the next day.”
Food Services Aides Betty Walker and Daniel Mays also impressed the Parkers with their kindness and care. The Parkers met Food Services Supervisor Grady Streetman, who stopped by to see how the food was and if he could do anything to help. “It was just unbelievable that at a hospital, the food was so great and the people were so courteous,” Laurinia says. Other Food Services Supervisors Michael Benson, Erin Chelewski, and Lester Howard also impressed Laurinia, as did Diet Clerk Yvonne Davis.
Diet Clerk Daphne Graham particularly wowed the Parkers. “Extra stars for Daphne, because when I would forget to call and place my husband’s food order because of being busy caring for him, she would always call to remind me. She just went out of her way. And Brenda Igbinoba, the night food services supervisor, was also just so nice.”
Focus on Comfort
“I can’t speak enough about the Environmental Services Department,” Laurinia says. “They were marvelous. Environmental Services Specialist Iris Sankey did a marvelous job cleaning the room. She would come in and say, ‘Ms. Parker, is everything okay? Is there anything extra that I need to bring for you?’ She always went the extra mile."
The Parkers raved about their doctors, Keneshia M. Kirksey, MD, and Karin Taylor, MD. “They were magnificent,” Laurinia says. “Dr. Kirksey would even call us on her off days to make sure we were okay.”
They also loved their nurses. “Ericka Hull was my husband’s special nurse,” Laurinia says. “A lot of things she couldn’t do because she was pregnant, but she would try so hard, which is what made her special.”
“Janet Meredith was the evening nurse. Some evenings we would get kind of down, but Janet would come in and make me laugh and talk about her dog. And I hated dogs, but Janet would talk about that dog, and I would just be so glad to hear about it, because her dog was everything to her. I told her, ‘Janet you took away a lot of stress I had this evening.’ It really took our minds off what we were going through. She would stop by later and say, ‘Ms. Parker, just know that everything is going to be alright. And maybe later on, you might think about getting a dog.’ And I would laugh even when I didn’t have laughter in me.”
“Latonyai Davis, another of our nurses, was very pleasant as well and always had a smile,” Laurinia says.
A Thriving Patient Community
“We got close to all the other patients,” Laurinia says. “I would go by and talk to them and laugh with them because we would get to know each other over the three months we were there.”
“Every day, we’d meet in the conference room with the other patients and their families,” Laurinia says. “Different people would talk to us about what we were going through. One lady played the guitar and let us sing. One day she said, ‘Ms. Parker, do you and Mr. Parker have a song you’d like to hear?’ And I said 'Amazing Grace,' because it is so amazing that God had put us all together in that room. There were people in there with all kinds of conditions and some much worse off than my husband. It’s hard to be grateful and thankful that things were no worse than they were.
“This class would take away a lot of tension and stress and help us deal with our circumstances. Then the preacher would come around to the room and pray with us and talk with us and make us feel good. I tell you, we were home away from home. This was not a facility where there was a sad a day; There was always someone there to inspire us. Therefore, it made my husband heal. It made him get better. The love we got from UAB was better than any medicine we could ever take. That was my husband’s healing."
Holidays at UAB
The Parkers were still at Spain when Christmastime came. They received a very special visit, which spread holiday cheer throughout their floor. “My sisters Monica Yates Mitchell and Shewatha Yates Gusler came to visit and brought food they had cooked and a truck full of gifts that they give to everybody on our floor,” Laurinia recalls. “There were collard greens, candied yams, four different cakes, and more. They fed everyone and gave everyone a gift. Everybody cried and everybody in the room went around and told what Christmas meant to us and what our plans were for the New Year.”
Getting Better Every Day
Laurinia says that Johnnie made significant progress while in Birmingham. “UAB got my husband to the next level,” she says. “He is doing much better. He can’t walk yet but he will soon.”
Laurinia has also been spreading the word about their experience at UAB. “I spoke to my church, and told them if there’s anybody that needs to go there, you go. The people at UAB are family, they make you feel good, and make sure you’re well.”