From Chicken Soup for the Volunteer's Soul

One Determined Angel

Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but for greatness, because greatness is determined by service.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

She looked so fragile and helpless. I was told she didn’t even speak English. Olga and her family had come from Puerto Rico to receive the expert medical care that was unavailable in her own country.

I was working in the intensive care unit of our local children’s hospital, as one of Olga’s nurses. I couldn’t help but think how frightened this little girl must feel with all those scary tubes, machines and monitors around her. When she opened her eyes, she was incredibly beautiful. Smiling back at me with big brown eyes, she spoke a universal language.

When her mother arrived early the next morning, she said to me, “My husband must return to Puerto Rico. He needs to go back to work. I’ll stay here, near Olga, with her sister and brother, so she can get the medical help she needs to stay alive.” As we talked, I discovered that Olga’s mother was the only one in her household who spoke English.

The family had been staying at the Ronald McDonald House but would soon need to move into more permanent housing. Since they didn’t have anyone else to help them set up housekeeping, I volunteered.

As I attempted to help get an apartment for Olga’s family, I was told, “It’s impossible. The child’s mother isn’t working, and the father doesn’t even live in this country.”

After I told this story to some of my nurse-friends, one of them contacted our local newspaper. One columnist promised he would write their story, but added, “This will be my last column of this sort. These stories just don’t sell papers anymore.”

That’s when Becky, our determined angel, arrived. She was a vibrant, talkative and charming volunteer. We talked, and immediately she had some excellent ideas. As we concluded our conversation, she said, “Oh, by the way, I have cancer, but I’m under treatment.”

Despite her condition, Becky took charge. She not only found housing for Olga and her family, but also helped with everything else they needed. I asked myself, How could this woman do so much when she has such difficulties of her own?

Becky got the children enrolled in a bilingual program and was able to find the mother a job close to home. When winter set in, Becky would go home from work, start dinner, check on the children and then call Olga’s mother to see if she had a ride home from the hospital. If she didn’t, Becky would bring her home.

When Olga’s father returned to stay in the United States, Becky enrolled the entire family in a bilingual program and was instrumental in obtaining a job for the father. Becky and her husband even obtained a dependable used car for the family, so they could become more self-reliant.

In December, Becky asked her coworkers to adopt Olga’s family for Christmas. The generosity of many volunteers provided a wonderful Christmas that year. Her kindness didn’t stop there; Becky continued to do wonderful things for this family.

In April 2000, I was invited to attend the annual Jefferson Awards luncheon. Five outstanding volunteers from each state are nominated, and one is selected to represent his or her state in the national competition in Washington, DC. Not only was Becky chosen, but she also won the top award. She not only helped this family in need, but she also helped many others fight their own battles with cancer.

In 1980, Becky was diagnosed with Stage III ovarian cancer. The doctors weren’t optimistic, but she was strong-willed and determined. Today, she continues to share her experiences, heartaches and triumphs. She is constantly placing the concerns and care of others before her own.

Becky is living proof that the human spirit can be remarkable, even under the most adverse conditions. Olga and her family thrive, thanks to a determined, kindhearted woman.

Dorothy Rose

[EDITORS’ NOTE: For information on the Ronald McDonald House Charities, contact One Kroc Drive, Oak Brook, IL 60523; Web site: For information on The Jefferson Awards, contact the American Institute for Public Service, 100 West 10th St., Suite 215, Wilmington, DE 19801; 302-622-9101; fax: 302-622-9106; e-mail: [email protected];Web]

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