Willits, CA – Typically, the holidays are a tough time to be hospitalized, but not for Angelina Hayes who received a Christmas gift she’s not likely to forget from someone she calls her “Secret Santa” at the Orthopedic Joint Center of Northern California at Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital (HMH). Hayes was hospitalized before Christmas with a broken toe that became infected and required surgery.
She had been in and out of another hospital, but wasn’t given the care she needed because she couldn’t afford it.
“They gave me prescriptions, but I told them I didn’t have the money to fill them, so my toe just kept getting worse,” she said.
“My whole foot was swollen.”
Eventually, the infection “exploded,” according to Hayes, and she was sent by ambulance to HMH where she underwent emergency orthopedic surgery to clean the affected area, which included removing part of the bone in her toe.
As it happened, she was also suffering from a major reaction to poison oak. “I was covered in sores. My arms and fingers were so swollen, but they gave me cream and I was better in a day. I couldn’t believe it,” she said.
On Christmas, all hospitalized patients received gifts from the HMH staff: hats or stockings filled with lotion, Chapstick, tissues, hand sanitizer, a book, and more. Patients also received a cozy blanket with a Christmas motif. For Hayes, a special gift was waiting.
For more than a year, Hayes has been trying to raise enough money to buy a plane ticket to return home to Arkansas where her mother is waiting for her to move back in with her, but a series of unfortunate events has prevented Hayes from accomplishing that goal.
An anonymous HMH employee had accumulated airline miles and offered to donate them to Hayes to buy her a ticket home. Hayes was amazed, and her praise and gratefulness extended past her Secret Santa to all the people who cared for her during the weeks she stayed at HMH.
“Everybody here’s nice. It’s all smiles all the time. They have such big hearts. They really care about the patients,” she said. “I push the button and a nurse comes running.” She marveled at the fact that “they’re always cleaning. It’s so clean.” And, she commented that, “Nobody has a bad attitude. Ever.”
Hayes hopes she won’t need to return, but said that if she ever needs to be hospitalized, she’d choose Frank R. Howard Memorial Hospital every time.
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