Patty Leaverton's Story
December 31, 2008, was this parent's worst nightmare: My youngest son was diagnosed with testicular cancer a month after his nineteenth birthday. After reeling from the initial shock, I knew exactly who and where to go for treatment: Dr. Marshall Levine at GBMC. I had had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Levine when I first arrived in Baltimore (another story, thankfully not medically-related!), and instinctively knew that our best options were with him.
The course of treatment was grueling, as his cancer was rather advanced. There is no other way to say this except that it was life changing in a POSITIVE WAY. Yes, you read that correctly. It was a path I wish no one would ever have to go down, but our journey was positive because of the phenomenal care that we received, not just from our oncologist, but from every oncology nurse, receptionist, volunteer, patient coordinator and other staff member. Everyone we encountered took us under his or her wing and went up and beyond our expectations. And yet, the story gets better.
At the end of my son’s treatment, I made myself a promise: I didn't know how, and I didn't know when (because of my crazy work schedule!), but somehow I was going to come back to GBMC and volunteer. I wanted to give back to a place that not only saved my son's life, but enriched both of our lives. I assumed when I retired that I would finally have the opportunity to volunteer, but life had other plans for me.
The following year, in November 2010, my husband passed away very suddenly, and nothing was the same. I had to continue to run my business and step up to run (well, attempt to run) his. Slowly I was able to simplify my life. I sold my company in late 2011, and my husband's company followed in 2012. I went from 900 miles an hour to "Wow, I can complete a thought!" The first thing I did was to contact the Volunteer Office at GBMC to find out more about the volunteer program.
I met with the volunteer director at that time, explained why and where I wanted to volunteer, and thankfully there was an opening in Infusion Therapy. I was off and running! I began my new life chapter in April 2012, and immediately fell in love again with my new role at GBMC: this time as a volunteer, not as the mom of a patient. There were many familiar faces and some new ones, too, and it was a great fit for me as I could relate my positive experience with patients and their caregivers.
Knowing firsthand how overwhelming a cancer diagnosis can be, but sharing my positive experience and celebrating my son's continued good health is something people want and need to hear, and boy, was I happy to share!
This might sound like the end of a very happy story, but it's not. In December, 2012, I became a full-time employee of GBMC, where I manage and buy for The Corner Shop, GBMC's gift shop. It is an extremely rewarding job, as I am blessed to work with the best volunteers in the world. Because the shop is a non-profit, all proceeds go back to patient care. So, you see, I have come full circle. I began as a terrified mother and now I come to work every day, motivated to provide the same kind of service my son and I received.
My customer base varies widely, including patients, employees and visitors alike, but making each customer feel welcome, to provide a positive experience, means everything to me. I am giving back, promoting care and compassion the way my son and I were treated. It is an honor and a privilege to be here at GBMC.