In The News

November 12th, 2017

FROM PATIENT TO VOLUNTEER: HOW A BRIEF STAY AT NLH INSPIRED JANICE KULPA TO SERVE

NLH's more than 100 volunteers bring a variety of life experience and skills to their roles in our community, and the motivations for their service are just as broad.

For Janice Kulpa, a series of positive patient experiences at NLH moved her to volunteer.

The Kulpas - Janice, husband Ron, children LeighAnn, Susanne and James - began vacationing in the Sunapee region in the late 90s, and through the years the family landed in NLH's emergency room as a result of swimming pool accidents, allergic reactions to sunflower seeds and encounters with broken glass. It was a visit in 2014, however, that turned Janice from a patient to a volunteer.

One summer evening, Janice, who'd recently recovered from a severe intestinal condition, began experiencing stomach pains. She also felt mentally overwhelmed, having endured a litany of past health problems - including autoimmune hepatitis, which once put her in grave condition. That night, Janice was admitted to NLH under the care of Drs. Brian Frenkiewich and Stephen Bissah. She also spent time with NLH Chaplain Cheryl Dean. Tests were run, x-rays were scanned. Deep, clarifying conversations were held. Through it all, Janice felt genuine compassion for both body and mind from her NLH care team.

Janice was discharged after a brief stay, but her patient experience, along with the memories of past care at NLH, left a lasting impression. In 2016, Janice began volunteering at the hospital four days a week, training in the Emergency Department with her daughter LeighAnn, a junior at Johns Hopkins who dreams of being a research doctor. Susanne, LeighAnn's sister and a nursing major at Towson, began volunteering at NLH in 2016, and Janice's husband Ron recently signed up to volunteer at the front desk.

"I wanted to give back to the hospital because they treated me so well," says Janice. "My husband and I firmly believe that we should always contribute to the communities we call 'home,' and we've raised our children to do the same."

Janice has always been civic-minded. A retired math teacher, she's served on parish councils, social committees and PTAs. She started a town newspaper. She's overseen the expansion of Girl Scout troops. She serves on the board of a non-profit thrift shop. She was even once elected town treasurer. Now Janice is a hospitality cart volunteer at NLH.

On Wednesdays and Fridays, she delivers magazines, books, crossword puzzles, newspapers, beverages - anything that can make a patient's hospital stay more comfortable. She speaks with them for a few minutes to a few hours. As Janice sees it, hospitality is more than distributing items - it's a call to be truly present with our patients.

She has also made hospitality more creative by crocheting afghans for patients. "I'll never forget the first afghan I made," Janice says. "It was for a sweet patient who was here for some time. She was always cold and she missed her cat, so I made her a cat-emblazoned pillow to match her lap afghan."

Another patient received a striking grey-toned lap afghan from Janice, only to have it accidentally discarded with the laundry one day. The afghan couldn't be found, so Janice whipped up another blanket in four days so that it could come home with him when the patient was discharged. "I power-crocheted," she says, laughing.

So far Janice has distributed more than 40 afghans for patients. This is Janice's way of saying "thank you" for the care and community the Kulpas have received at NLH.

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