BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - I received an email the Wednesday before Thanksgiving from a woman whose son and daughter-in-law's baby, her grandbaby, was in the intensive care unit at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge.
Martha Sealy informed me that while she was visiting her daughter-in-law at the hospital, an employee from the Environmental Services department entered and invited them to enjoy a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal there at the hospital. No, not from the hospital's cafeteria, but made from scratch by this lady from Environmental Services. She was going to cook the meal herself at her own expense and deliver it hot to everyone on the NICU floor of Woman's Hospital.
The NICU at Woman's Hospital stands for Newborn and Infant Intensive Care Unit. Other facilities may call it the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but it's all the same thing. It's where newborn babies or infants with critical health situations are nursed back to health.
Another distinction I am allowed to make here is Environmental Services is just a more professionally accepted way of saying "housekeeping." So, the woman who was buying all this food and cooking a huge meal for the NICU families and employees was, essentially, in housekeeping at the hospital.
Martha Sealy was so touched by this woman's act of kindness that she was contacting me to see if WAFB could highlight this woman with our Hand It On recognition, even though it was last minute.
Absolutely! This was definitely worth sharing.
So, after several telephone exchanges between me and the marketing department at the hospital it was agreed we'd record the segment on Thanksgiving Day around 4 p.m.
Gladean McCarns has only worked for Woman's Hospital for about eight months and has been assigned environmental duties on the NICU unit. Before coming to Woman's, Gladean worked at the Baton Rouge General - Mid City in a similar capacity.
I got to the hospital early enough to meet and visit with Gladean McCarns. She was under the impression we were there to simply do a story about people having to work on Thanksgiving Day.
"I've met all the parents," Gladean told me when asked why she was going to this trouble and spending a large amount of money to cook for about 40 people. "It's so close to Thanksgiving time, so I just asked my Father in Heaven what I could do for them. And, He said, 'You can cook!' And so, this is what you see. I cooked."
And, cook she did. We were visiting in the parent's lounge of Woman's Hospital's NICU unit. In this room, Gladean had a spread set up that would be the envy of tailgate parties at Southern or LSU! There was, of course, turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce. But Gladean also prepared smothered pork chops, bar-b-que ribs, mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, rolls and deserts. Yes, deserts - plural. She made sweet potato pie, pecan pie and banana pudding. All of this was set up in an elaborate spread across two different tables, all kept warm with warming pots Gladean purchased just for this meal.
"What makes you so compassionate?" I asked as I surveyed the food.
"The babies and the parents. The parents - they go through so much. But the babies! Oh, they have all types of illnesses and the parents have to endure this; have to worry if they're going to survive or not. I feel like these are all my children; my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. That's what I feel like that they are here," she explained.
Martha Sealy was waiting, hidden in the hallway.
"I cooked Thanksgiving dinner today, so I know how very much it costs," Martha said.
"And this [Woman's Hospital] is a great place to be. We feel safe and we feel that things are going to turn out well. But it's also stressful. And a lot of people are from out of town and they don't have their families here. So, this is a real special time for this to be happening for them. She [Gladean] just speaks to them. And, her smile. You know, when you're hovering over your baby and you see a smile come in, it just makes you feel a little better," Martha concluded.
We were now ready to go back into the parent's lounge and surprise the still unsuspecting Gladean McCarns with our Hand It On gift. Martha rounded the corner, our cameras rolling behind her.
"Hey, Miss Gladean," Martha began, her voice beginning to quiver slightly. "I'm one of the grandmothers. And I was in the room when you came in and invited my son and daughter-in-law to eat today. I was so touched by it that I invited Channel 9. They gave me $300. This is yours!" Martha handed Gladean three brand new, crisp one hundred dollar bills!
It was at that instant that Gladean realized for the very first time that she was the recipient of WAFB's Hand It On recognition.
"Thank you. God bless you and God bless everybody," Gladean said, near tears. "Thank you so very much. I really appreciate you," Gladean said as she embraced Martha warmly. "Now, you see. I'm trying not to cry now. But when I leave here - it's going to pour like rain."
What are you thankful for this holiday season? We're thankful for Miss Gladean McCarns for healing the hurting with compassion, genuine care, love, smiles and warm nourishment. She may not be a doctor but she heals nonetheless.
To nominate someone for WAFB's Hand It On recognition, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information, especially your phone number.