Volunteer of the Year: William "Bill" Mirick

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Volunteer of the Year: William "Bill" Mirick

Veterans Volunteer, OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital

Bill Mirick has retired at least three times in his 84 years. His first job as a teenaged Navy frogman in the Korean War inspired Mirick's latest-and favorite-occupation as a volunteer in Riverside's Veteran Visitation program.

"You never know who you're going to run into. It may be the lowest private, it may be a general. And that's what makes the whole life interesting," says Mirick.

In his time volunteering with Riverside's veterans' program, he's met an aide to General Douglas MacArthur, a Tuskegee airman, a double-amputee Afghanistan vet who was about to become a mother and a Navy corpsman who had been stationed on Mirick's ship in Korea. He's made friends and comforted a few restless minds.

Mirick likes telling jokes. His ability to lighten the mood in a room has made him popular among Riverside's nurses and support staff. But Mirick is entirely serious in his approach to supporting fellow military veterans through illness, injury or childbirth.

Walking into a stranger's hospital room is difficult. During his first two visits, Mirick wondered if it was his place to come in and say, "Hi, I understand you're a veteran." But by his third patient visit, Mirick had found his niche.

He's spent every Tuesday for the past three years visiting with hospitalized vets and their families. Mirick's always ready to come in after church on Sunday if the hospital is short on volunteers.

"We get a list in the morning of veterans who are here. One or two of us go visit them," says Mirick.

He's visited with vets of every US war from Korea to Afghanistan. The generation gap is easily bridged by the shared bonds of service and Mirick's personality.

He begins every visit by presenting patients with an American flag in a tiny wooden stand carved by veteran volunteers. Mirick makes magnets, which he sticks on vets' doors so hospital staff know they're caring for a service member.

Mirick carries two things with him on his rounds: a folder of veterans benefit information that he compiles from Veterans Affairs and the Ohio Department of Veterans Services, and his Kindle Bible.

His visits last from five minutes to an hour and a half. Mirick is alternately a friend and an unofficial advisor. He listens when veterans want to unburden themselves. He trades service stories when they want comradery. He points patients and their families in the right direction when they need veterans benefits or additional support services.

"Every time I leave, we salute each other," he says. Mirick insists that any accolades belong to the 13 veteran volunteers he works with in the program, which was established by Riverside's volunteer services manager Gerry O'Shaughnessy. Over 2,500 veteran patients have received friendly visits through the program. Mirick has visited over 650 vets himself.

"Why do I keep coming? Besides enjoying it, hopefully when I'm in such a situation somebody will do the same for me."

Volunteer, Mount Carmel West and the Mount Carmel College of Nursing

Great healthcare volunteers are often motivated by their own experiences as patients or survivors. Mount Carmel volunteer Monica Durban turned her own traumatic injury into an opportunity to give back to the providers who brought her back to health.

In 2009, Durban began volunteering her time at Mount Carmel West's 8 South unit. This is where Durban spent months in a medically induced coma and intensive recovery after a drunk driver hit her car in January 2008.

The accident left Durban with a traumatic brain injury and multiple other injuries that derailed her college graduation, marriage and career plans.

Durban's decision to return to Mount Carmel was motivated by her desire to support the unit's nurses, patients and families. The experience has also been therapeutic for Durban, physically and emotionally.

In addition, she's turned her experience into a learning tool for future nurses. Working with Holly, one of the nurses who cared for her throughout her recovery, Durban visits the Mount Carmel College of Nursing every six weeks to teach nursing students about the neurological injury she suffered.