Volunteer Program Staff Rally Together for Family Facing Loss

Volunteer Program staff recently participated in a Values Review to help deepen their understanding of Mayo's core values. During the event, one exercise brought back a poignant moment for the team.

When it comes to living out values like compassion, integrity and excellence, we'd say the staff in the Mayo Clinic Volunteer Program are at the top of their game. They, however, wanted to take things up a notch. So the group recently went through a voluntary Values Review, designed to help work units deepen their understanding of Mayo Clinic's values. "Our values are a gift from our founders," John J. Murphy, a member of the Values Review Committee, tells us. "A Values Review is a way to help keep those gifts alive in daily life."

As part of the review, staff share stories about how they've lived out the Mayo Clinic Values. Murphy tipped us off to a powerful one shared by Marie Aaberg during her group's review. We followed up with Aaberg, a manager in the volunteer program, to hear about the experience that affected her entire unit — and brought them closer as a team.

Aaberg tells us that a few days before Christmas last year, she received a call that took her mind far from any typical holiday to-do list. "An ICU nurse called the volunteer program office and indicated she was caring for a young mother who was not expected to live through the day," she says. "Her three young children were coming to the hospital to say their goodbyes. The nurse wondered if we had stuffed animals that we could give the children to comfort them."

Aaberg and her colleagues sprang into action, quickly selecting stuffed animals from the collection sewn by Mayo volunteers. But they wanted to do more. While they knew they couldn't take away the children's pain, Aaberg tells us she and her colleagues hoped to provide some small measure of comfort. They gathered children's books and activity bags and stopped by the Methodist Campus Volunteer Gift Shop to pick out larger stuffed animals for each child. They also provided a baby blanket for the youngest child and a prayer shawl for the mother, both knit by volunteers.

Less than 45 minutes after receiving the call, Aaberg delivered the gifts to the ICU. When she returned to her colleagues, "we all had tears in our eyes," Aaberg tells us, thinking of "those kids who were going to lose their mom. The experience really put things in perspective. This was a reminder that a lot of the things I'd been thinking were important are not. It was a reminder that you never know what each day might bring."

Months later, it's a lesson that lingers. "We still talk about this and we still get emotional about it," Aaberg says. "We think about those little children and what they were losing that day. The experience had a huge impact on all of us, and reminded us that we're here to be of service in any way we can." And sometimes, that service goes beyond the bedside. "Here at Mayo, there's such a devotion not only to the needs of the patient, but also to the needs of the family," Aaberg says. "This is where our Mayo Clinic values of teamwork and compassion really shine through. It makes you proud to work here."

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