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Volunteer Spotlight: Years of compassionate caring and listening

Sometimes, the best medicine is a friendly face with a compassionate ear.  That’s what Catholic Medical Center volunteer Pauline Lessard has offered to patients and their families for the last three years.  Pauline is a hospice volunteer.  Her time is spent listening to the sickest patients and their families. “They need someone so badly,” she says. “The best thing you can do for a patient is to listen because they have to talk.” 

Pauline was just a teenager when she came to Manchester from her home in Rhode Island to enter Notre Dame de Lourdes School of Nursing.  What started in 1949 has become a lifetime of service and compassion to the patients and families of Manchester.  After a career, mostly in the operating room, at Notre Dame Hospital, Pauline went on to volunteer with the VNA for 30 years. It wasn’t until a few years ago that, “finally, my dream came true and I volunteered at CMC.”

Every year, more than 300 volunteers give in excess of 50-thousand hours of their time across various hospital departments. Some knit, others cuddle babies.  One could be the friendly face you see when you check into the lab, another might be the woman who rings up your order in the gift shop. Pauline knew when she started volunteering that she just had to work with hospice patients. “I love people and I’m a good listener,” she says, noting that she also speaks French, which has proved a tremendous asset over the years. “They need someone so badly…A total stranger walks in and with just a hello the conversation begins and they really come out with their deepest feelings.  I know that’s good for them.”

“It’s a special individual who can focus on the patient and just listen and let the patient say what they need,” says Sue Tremblay, Director of Volunteer Resources for CMC. When it comes to Pauline, “I felt at ease with her right away when I first met her and I could see she would be that kind of person who would connect with patients.” 

While April 10-16 is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, CMC’s volunteers will be formally recognized and thanked for their time and talents in a luncheon on May 5th.  “They’re very valuable in several different ways,” says Tremblay of the volunteers, who always make her smile. "They provide a lot of comfort and care services that the hospital might not otherwise be able to offer. They’re the extra special touches that help improve a patient’s stay.”

The spotlight, though, can be a pretty uncomfortable place for a volunteer.  Pauline would prefer to praise the hundreds of other men and women who give their time to CMC than to be recognized for her work.  She’d like to tell you about her twin daughters, daughter-in-law, and stepdaughter-in-law, who all continue her work of compassionate care as nurses (two of them right here at CMC!). Most of all, she wants to give thanks to the patients she’s sat with over the years.  “What I do is hardly anything but, for them, I know I’m helping them. That’s the greatest joy to me.”  

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