A Night in Northwing

northwing blue gloves
Kitty Wells checks the IV drip. — Photo by Rhonda Vanover

Northwing is the inpatient care unit at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Regional Hospital. We recently dropped in around the eight to nine o’clock shift change as visitors left and nurses and patients settled in for the night.

“There is a strong connection between Geneva, Alabama, and Bethel, Alaska, believe it or not,” shared Night Shift Charge Nurse, JC Crews. “Thanks to some connections—compliments of Gary Holmes,” the Charge Nurse who’s been around Bethel for quite awhile, “—we’ve nearly achieved a familial balance between Alabama and Alaska, right here in the North wing.”

It’s true. A surprisingly large contingent of the nursing staff in the North Wing is from Geneva, Alabama. JC Crews is the father of Specialty Clinic Nurse (and recent March of Dimes award recipient) Catherine Crews. JC said he was an accountant for 20 years, but, “I should have been a nurse a long time ago…I love it.”

Crews said, “After seeing my sister’s care in dealing with pancreatic cancer and the level of engagement and care her nurses provided to her (before her passing) it changed my life. I’m so happy to work with people and help them with their health care needs. It’s really tough when they’re away from home, and when home becomes the hospital, that’s where it becomes even more important for us to be like a second family to our patients.”

Real Life Elves – giving back to the community

In addition to long-standing nurse and Napartet Champion from Northwing, Melody Jordan—who decorates the halls (literally) with each passing season (notably Halloween and Christmas)—there are other elves of Northwing who deserve great credit for giving back to the community.

Sally Thompson, nurse and colleague of JC Crews (also from Geneva, Alabama) got her family together to give back to the YK Delta community for a good cause.

“Every year our family has a chance to speak up about what charity they want to give to. I proposed that we help the elementary school here in Bethel (Mikelenguut Elitnaurviat) in their annual coat and hat drive to help benefit some children in need who maybe didn’t have enough warm gear to last the winter.”

Needless to say, Sally’s idea got the vote from her family and colleagues to go forth with the contribution. Marissa Taylor, JC Crews, and many others (apologies if we can’t name them all!) from Northwing and the Geneva, Alabama, community put together book bags and purchased warm coats, hats and gear to benefit local school children.

So what makes the work so rewarding? We asked Linnea Stein, a nurse of North Wing who will celebrate nine years with YKHC this month (second-longest serving behind Melody Jordan), and she said, “ultimately, it’s the patients. The patients are wonderful; they are very caring and they appreciate anything you do for them.”

JC Crews agreed about the patient-care aspect and the importance of family when caring for the sick. “I see a nostalgic sense of family. Relatives come in, bring food, check in on their loved ones. We don’t even see that in the patient-care aspect in Geneva, Alabama. The YK Delta is so special in that sense.”

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