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Someone You Should Know: Volunteers Make Hospital a Warmer Place for Patients


A long time ago, Harry Darling was here at St. Alexius Hospital under not-so-great circumstances. “It was 30 years ago that I had open-heart surgery here at St. Alexius,” Darling says. “And the heart surgeon is still here.” And now Harry is here again, too. He and his wife Sandra have been volunteering at CHI St. Alexius hospital in Bismarck for fourteen years.

“Well, when you’re working full time and all of a sudden retire, you need something to fill your time,” explains Sandra Darling. “And I really did, because I did not ease into retirement very easily.”

These days, Sandra is posted in the waiting room of the heart and vascular center. Harry’s job is to escort patients and visitors through the maze of hospital hallways. “We take ’em where they have to go,” he says. “Could be birth and labor, could be inpatient surgery, outpatient surgery, women’s surgery. You meet the greatest people in the world.”

People like Harry and Sandra are crucial for a place like CHI St. Alexius, which right now has 132 volunteers under its umbrella. They’re the guides who help us find mom’s recovery room: “People would be pretty lost if they didn’t have someone helping them out there,” Sandra explains.

They’re the ears who will listen when we need to talk through the discomfort of waiting and worrying: “You just try to have some conversation with whatever makes them comfortable,” she says.

“They’re uptight because they stayed in a motel, they’re still nervous about surgery or whatever’s gonna happen,” Harry explains, “so I try to make them relax a little bit.” And they’re the smiling faces when we need them the most. “It’s such a rewarding thing to do,” Harry says.

That’s why Harry and Sandra Darling - two helpers in the hospital - are two people you should know.

KX News
Timothy Olson Reporting