In one short hour, Bob Bakker has said “good morning” in three different languages. He can say it in ten. It’s a hobby, and for Bob, it’s a way to connect with the patients, families and staff he meets during his rounds at Cambridge Memorial Hospital. Today, he hurries down the hall with me in tow. His smile and greetings are warm and genuine, yet he is a busy man.
It’s 10:00 in the morning and “tea time” in the Medical Day Care Department of Cambridge Memorial Hospital. Here, patients with cancer are treated – like family. Bob hustles into the lunch room and prepares a tray for the nurses. They will need a break soon. By now, Bob has already greeted and settled in patients, brought water, juice and cookies to each, taken the stairs down to the lab and back to retrieve and deliver blood samples, picked up x-rays (twice), and delivered charts; this is a slow day.
At 75, Bob has been volunteering in the department for 15 years. After retiring from Bundy of Canada in Hespeler, where he worked for 22 years, he tried a few volunteer opportunities, but once he was assigned to Medical Day Care, he hasn’t looked back.
“I love every minute of it,” says Bob. “When I go home, I feel good.”
The chemotherapy area, or “Sun Room” as Bob prefers because “it has a nicer ring” is a cozy place with puffy chairs, warm blankets and snacks. A bell sits on a desk ready to be clanged and clanged again when a patient has completed their therapy. Cheerful nurses greet us and patients. All that mars the snug feel of the room are shiny steel stands used to hold bags of I.V. medication.
A familiar patient enters the room and takes a seat. Bob tucks her in with a warm blanket and brings her a ginger-ale and some cookies while she awaits her treatment. “I can’t say enough,” she says. “They treat you like family and their support is unbelievable.”
It is one of the more difficult places to volunteer in the hospital. This day, one patient has decided that she will stop her treatments. The news is taken with understanding, strength and an underlying sadness. But, that’s the reality.
“I can’t make them better, but I can make it as good as I can,” he says.
If doctors and staff are the bones and heart of any hospital, volunteers are the life-blood.
“Bob is great! All our volunteers are family,” says Tom McFarlane who looks after the pharmacy. “They are an integral part and we’d be lost without them. It’s a difficult time for our patients. Our volunteers are open and friendly. It adds up to so much.”
From nurses to doctors, Bob is a familiar and experienced volunteer with a flair.
“He’s one of the best; a fearless leader. He always says it like it is,” says Dr. Michael Koke. “He’s very good to the patients.”
Gail, the head of the Medical Day Care Department rushes by but has time to say, “We can’t live without him and all the other volunteers!”
We have another run to Medical Records. I’m trying to keep up with Bob in heels that I should have exchanged for sneakers before leaving the house that morning.
“C’mon baby!” Bob says as he looks at the clock and hums as he makes his way down to retrieve the next set of medical records for the front desk.
“Everyone has a job to do,” he says. “Whether you’re a sweeper or Prime Minister – we all have a job to do.”
Bob was 18 years old when he moved here from Holland. His wife, Geraldine, a volunteer in the hospital gift shop for 5 years, (…a must see!) also came over from Holland with her family. They met while working at a local towel factory. With four children of their own, and family who come from miles around, their reunions have grown to over 100 people.
Bob and Geraldine are active in the community with their volunteer activities as well as bowling, walking and keeping up with that ever-growing family.
“I’ve lived here all these years. I want to give something back,” says Bob about his volunteer services for the hospital. “My philosophy is that there is a beginning and an end. We can’t change it. But we can help.”
If you would like to be a volunteer with Cambridge Memorial Hospital, please contact Paul Corkery, Manager, Volunteer Resources at 621-2333 ext. 2368 or [email protected] for details.
Tags: Bob Bakker, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, canada, cancer, children, family, home, Medical Day Care Department, Medical Records, Michael Koke, Paul Corkery, Prime Minister, something, Volunteer Resources, water