For eight hours a day, rain or shine, Ron Woolworth parks cars, helps people in and out of wheelchairs, gives directions and even directs traffic. Most of the people he encounters don’t want to be there — but he still manages to get a smile or a hello from them. Ron doesn’t valet for UCHealth for the money; he’s been a business owner since before he could legally drive. Instead, his reason is very much rooted in his own experience as a patient.
“I feel like I owe it to them,” Woolworth said. “I want them to know the impact they had on me when I came into the hospital and how that carries through to everyone.”
Woolworth credits the doctors and nurses at Medical Center of the Rockies with his existence today.
He had one of the first operations ever performed at Medical Center of the Rockies when the hospital opened in 2007. Serious issues required his large intestine to be removed. It was an eight-and-a-half-hour surgery that ran into many complications. Woolworth spent seven weeks at MCR, and about halfway through his stay, his wife, Marcie, was told he might not survive. And at one point, he had given up hope.
“It was a really bad time,” Woolworth said.
Woolworth said his nurses and doctors were not only experts in medicine. They were also compassionate, which kept him going.
During the time when Woolworth had decided to give up, a nurse showed up in his room. She wasn’t going to let him quit, he explained. She bathed and shaved him, assuring him that he was going to get better and feel better.
“She was so sincere,” Woolworth said. “I respect her for everything she did and the way she handled things. You could tell that she really cared, and that’s what makes all the difference when you get into a situation like that.”
Woolworth has always been a cheerful, kind person, but it wasn’t until he left MCR that he too became a caregiver, he said.
“I wanted to give something back … They really did change my life,” he said.
Woolworth now serves as a valet two days a week at UCHealth’s Harmony Campus in Fort Collins. He volunteers at MCR and is a member of the MCR Patient Family Advisory Council (PFAC). He uses his story to inspire others.
“When someone has touched your heart like these people have, it’s easy to pass along your story,” Woolworth said.
But it’s not just his story that he passes on; it’s a million other nice gestures as well.
When Woolworth is working valet, he gives each child who comes to the campus two pennies — “special pennies for a very special wish in the fountain inside,” he tells them.
He went out of his way on another occasion when a woman told him that she didn’t eat well because she couldn’t cook well, so Ron responded by packaging a few of his homemade soups and leaving them on the seat of her car.
His feedback at PFAC has resulted in adequate voltage plugs for patients and their families parking their RVs at the hospital. Woolworth also speaks to new clinical employees and nurse residents during their patient and family centered care class. And he’s a volunteer with the No One Dies Alone program.
“Ron was supported throughout his patient experience by the way we cared for him; he’s a great example for staff of how and why we put patients first,” said Linda Sullivan, registered nurse coordinator of education programs for UCHealth Northern Colorado. “Excellent nursing care is what they brought to the table, but how they cared for him and met his needs is what Ron came away with. He won’t forget that relationship he made with those people.”