She was the first volunteer to sign up when the hospital opened nearly two decades ago. As volunteers were allowed back for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, ending an eight-month hiatus …
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She was the first volunteer to sign up when the hospital opened nearly two decades ago. As volunteers were allowed back for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic, ending an eight-month hiatus to the program, Sue Heinz was again the first person to call and ask when she could start volunteering.
And on March 31, she celebrated her 90th birthday at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree — a milestone for the hospital's first, oldest, one of its longest-serving and its “hardest-working” volunteer.
“When we have a snowstorm and no one's coming in, who's coming in? Sue Heinz,” Director of Volunteer and Family Services John Penn said shortly before a surprise luncheon held for Heinz for her April 1 birthday.
Heinz, of Parker, is the most proactive volunteer, Penn said. She asks for work and gets it done quickly. She once assembled 400 informational packets the hospital provides for new mothers in a single day. She keeps a positive attitude throughout her multiple weekly shifts, not to mention a spirited sense of humor and plenty of quips to liven conversation.
“The longevity is one thing but it's all these other things together that I think make it pretty extraordinary,” Penn said.
Heinz has worked in numerous departments since she first signed up to serve at Sky Ridge in 2003. She has tended to each of the waiting rooms and now helps Penn in his duties organizing volunteers or assisting employees in the medical staff office. She files, makes copies of doctor charts, fills coffee, sends letters and does whatever else is needed.
Hospital staff say she's touched countless lives in small ways.
One time as Heinz worked the hospital's information desk, a woman in a wheelchair approached her.
Heinz did not know why the woman came to Sky Ridge exactly. The patient was scheduled for some variety of surgery, but so scared she physically shook as she checked in with Heinz.
Heinz ran to the X-ray room, grabbed some warm towels, and wrapped them snugly around the woman. Instantly, she relaxed.
There are countless stories like that of Heinz comforting a scared patient at the information desk, said Linda Watson, director of marketing and public relations for Sky Ridge.
“You can't even put a dollar sign on that, that is so invaluable,” Watson said.
Watson has known Heinz all her 18 years with the hospital. Both helped open the facility in 2003, first meeting at a temporary space before the hospital officially opened to the community.
“A number of us who were part of the startup team at Sky Ridge remember Sue because she was volunteering before our doors were even open," Watson said.
Heinz's son Steve, of Lone Tree, was also on the startup team. He worked as the first medical staff president and was the emergency department medical director for years before taking a job at another nearby hospital.
Heinz didn't sign up to volunteer at Sky Ridge until she ran the idea past Steve.
“I think she was fearful that she was going to get in my way some way or another or that I would be uncomfortable having my mother roaming the halls,” he said. “But not in the least.”
Heinz has been “a great mom, first and foremost,” he said. She never missed her children's or grandchildren's sporting events. She got involved in all her children's activities and volunteered at the hospital in their Michigan hometown before volunteering at Sky Ridge when they moved to Colorado.
“I think if the good Lord blessed her with another 90 years, she'd be here for another 90,” he said. “It's a labor of love.”
At Sky Ridge, his mother watched the medical staff grow from roughly 1,000 to about 1,600 today, one of her favorite parts of the job, he said. The complexity of care heightened too. The hospital became a level two trauma center and stroke certified, Watson said.
Heinz said volunteering is part of who she is. She is passionate about the work.
“I've been volunteering since I was a Girl Scout,” she said.
Her plans moving forward are to stay healthy, care for her husband and keep giving her time to Sky Ridge.
“I'm happy when I'm here,” she said. “I hope I'm helping others.”
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