There’s an impressive pile of handwritten thank-you notes at Donna Goodey’s home in Sardis.
Each one has been carefully crafted by a thankful high school graduate of 2015, and outlines hopes for their lives as medical professionals — doctors, nurses, care aides, dietitians. Each letter acknowledges money received by the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary, and how it will help them achieve their goals.
It’s not required that the grads send thank you notes, but they arrive anyway.
Goodey, third term president of the auxiliary, reads the letters over and has hope for the future. Receiving letters like this is an annual task, and one she takes great pleasure in.
She is motivated by gratitude, for what the medical community has done for her family and for what other volunteers have contributed to the auxiliary. Goodey has been involved with the auxiliary for the last 20 years. She’s also been with the Canadian Diabetes Association for 35 years, on the local executive, then regional, then provincial. She helped lobby the government to allow Pharmacare to cover the cost of blood test strips.
The Goodeys’ two daughters, Candice and Tara, both were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as young children. This was in the mid-’80s, and Goodey shudders at the memory of the invasive and costly treatments available three decades ago.
“You used to have to put their pee in a test tube,” she says, then dip in test strips and match the colour to a colour strip. This all took two hours, just to find out blood sugar levels when it could be too late.
“The information was two hours old,” she adds.
But she doesn’t dwell on the negative “drudgery” of a life with diabetes, and neither do her now-grown daughters. One has had a pancreas transplant, and now produces insulin. Both girls grew from young diabetes patients to become camp counsellors.
“With the health care that you get, you just naturally want to give back,” Goodey explains.
So getting involved with both the Canadian Diabetes Association, and the Chilliwack Hospital Auxiliary was bound to happen. Now that she’s retired from working as an administrator with both provincial and federal corrections, she’s put her administration skills to good use.
In one pile in her house, there are scrapbooks for the auxiliary on the go. In another pile, she’s working on another history project. She puts together the auxiliary newsletter, takes care of correspondence like thank you letters and Christmas cards, manages the member list, oversees the Auxiliary Thrift Shop on Main Street, and organizes thank you celebrations for the 80-some volunteers signed up with the group.
There are to-do lists pre-made in her agenda right now that are dated for 2016, and 2017.
“I put it in there as soon as I think about it,” she says. “I have to. I plan one to two years in advance and then deal with it one day at a time.”
It’s a lot of work, but being highly organized makes it a breeze — and she likes to be busy, anyway.
And the payoff is that she is able to help people through some of the hardest days of their lives.
“Everyone is going to need the hospital at some point in their life,” she says.
Goodey and the rest of the auxiliary members are the friendly faces with the red vests in CGH. They serve tea to people while they await discharge, and sit with patients while they wait for family members to arrive. They help with IV therapy, are the ones behind the knitting case, and very likely a long list of unrecognized small acts of kindness within the hospital’s walls.
They also help purchase some of the lifesaving equipment the doctors use every day. Each department writes a wish list, each year, and the auxiliary is one of the groups that gets to play Santa Claus. They spend anywhere from $80,000 to $120,000 a year on equipment. It’s a lot of money, but medical equipment doesn’t come cheap.
“Just a stretchers is $30,000,” she says.
One year they were able to replace a fridge that held insulin, other years they’ve purchased operating equipment, cardiac machines, and ambulatory care gear.
“You want to get something that will help the most people,” she says.
Goodey doesn’t do all of this for any sort of recognition. But it has come her way, in the form of some pretty big awards. The Goodeys, including husband Michael, received the Kurt Kroesen National Inspiration Award from the CDA.
But Goodey prefers praising others for their hard work and dedication.
“The more you do for them, the more they give back to you,” she says.