It had been a long night. When she got to work, she was already tired. She loved her job, but it takes its toll with each and every shift. After her usual tasks, she begins to make her rounds, checking on patients, refilling glasses, making sure vitals are normal, and more. This was the best part of her job- making sure the patients, her patients, were taken care of.

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She walks into the room of a patient who has been here for a few weeks. He was one of Cheyenne Regional Hospital's COVID patients and, for a little while, she wasn't sure he was going to make it. But he did and, though he couldn't speak, she saw the gratefulness in his eyes every time she stopped to check on him.

But this time there was something different in his eyes. They were glossy, almost glass-like. She saw the tears in his eyes and wished so badly that he could tell her what was going through his mind. He couldn't, though. So she did the only thing she could think of - she pulled up the chair beside his bed and sat down next to him. Then, she took his hand and held it in her own. In a little while, she would have to get back to her rounds. But for now, for just a little while, she would sit with him. And she would hold his hand. 

Bob Vines tested positive for COVID-19 on July 15. By the 17th, his wife brought him to the emergency room where they found out his oxygen levels were only at about 40%.

He was immediately intubated.

"I have no memories after that," Vines stated. "I was intubated for about 20 days and I was on a respirator for 23 days. I developed a staph infection while I was there too, which didn't help."

23 days is a long time. Being unconscious for that amount of time and relying on machines to do the majority of your breathing for you- it's a scary thing. Vines said that as he drifted in and out of consciousness, he heard his wife's voice and he knew that numerous people were pulling for him. He didn't see any white lights, he didn't hear the voice of God or anything but, when he finally regained consciousness, he knew that something in him had changed.

Maybe he was scared. Maybe he was shocked. Maybe he was just grateful to be alive. But when Bob Vines finally woke up and knew he would be okay, he looked around the room, saw his nurses, his doctors, his CNA's and said, "How can I help?"

Because that's just what Bob Vines does.

Previously, Vines was the Editor of the Northern Wyoming Daily News.

"When I was a newspaper editor, I was really attracted to feature stories about underdogs," Vines revealed. "I liked telling stories about overcoming obstacles. I wanted people to feel good after they read a feature, because it's just so depressing on the front page or, worse, the opinions page."

Vines built a career out of writing stories that showcased the underdog and then, in his later years, he began working directly for the ultimate underdogs.

Currently, he is a prevention specialist with the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

"A friend of mine was elected county attorney," Vines said. "And he thought the empathy I showed in my writing would translate well to a career as a crime victim advocate, a courtroom victim advocate. So for four or five years, I provided direct services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. We had a lot of kids that I worked with that were victims of sexual abuse. Those happened to be my favorite kids, but they were also the hardest cases. So from there, I started getting into prevention work, asking 'How can we stop this before it happens?'"

He just cares about people, that's all.

So when Vines woke up after a three week battle against COVID, one of his first thoughts was, 'What can I do to make a difference here?'

It didn't take him long to figure out the answer.

It started shortly after he woke up.

"Once I realized what had happened, and I realized I was gonna survive, I still couldn't communicate," Vines remembered. "So I'm laying in bed and I'm having all of these incredible emotions built up, and there's no way for them to release. So I'm lying there in bed, just soaking my pillow with tears, and a CNA walked in and sat with me and held my hand for I don't know how long. And it was such a wonderful moment of comfort that particular CNA provided for me."

Because that's what CNA's do. They work long hours, for not great pay. They don't get the glory of doctors or the respect of nurses, but they are the ones spending actual quality time with patients. They're helping patients wash themselves. They're bringing food.

They're holding hands.

CNA's are, in many cases, the unsung heroes of the healthcare industry and Vines wanted to do something for them to not only show his appreciation, but to give them a tangible, useful gift that would allow them the means to continue providing care to patients who, sometimes, just need a hand to hold.

So, he started a GoFundMe to raise money to buy shoes for CNA's. It's a simple thing, really. But it's tangible. It's useful. And, most importantly, it's necessary.

"You know, [CNA's] will walk 20,000 steps a day but at that moment, she just sat with me and held my hand," Vine said. "When you're in the hospital, you're so vulnerable. You're lying in a hospital bed and they're helping you do things that you're normally used to doing yourself, and you spend a lot of time staring at the floor, and at shoes. And I know they don't make a lot of money, but I started getting curious about whether or not their shoes get reimbursed."

As Vines expected, they do not.

"Of course they don't," he said. "That investment, just to have good quality nursing shoes, a lot of people just can't afford them. I was talking to one guy and his brand new Nike's, after two weeks, were already starting to lose their tread."

Vines said that CNA's do a lot of work and often go underappreciated.

"Not only do they move a lot, they've got a lot to move," Vines laughed. "I'm almost 300 pounds and they'll come in and do everything for me. It's amazing what they do. And the coolest thing about it is that not a single one of them ever complained or acted like they didn't want to be there. They allowed you dignity and they knew their purpose."

Talk to any CNA, or any nurse, and the majority of them will tell you that they didn't get into their line of work for the money. They spend long hours doing things that most of us don't want to do. But they do it anyway, because they were called to it. They have the hearts, the minds, and the spirits for it.

They just care about people, that's all.

"This is where the former journalist in me comes out," Vines said. "I just started talking to them and they shared these incredible stories with me about why they do it. Nobody answers a help wanted ad to become a CNA. But they have all these reasons for doing what they do. One guy told me that two of his family members were paraplegic's and he just felt comfort in taking care of people. Another person was disappointed in how their mother was treated when she was being taken care of several years ago. They all just have these incredible stories."

Vines was moved by the stories that he heard and, because he is who he is, he started the GoFundMe...before he was even out of the hospital.

The goal is to raise $10,000. As of this writing, it's at about $3,940. Thus far, 77 people have donated to the cause, but Vines hopes even more will hear about his story and choose to honor these unsung heroes with something as simple as a new pair of shoes.

On the GoFundMe Page, Vines wrote the following:

Being hospitalized with Covid and spending more than a month on a ventilator, you learn what grace is. I have great insurance and no need for financial assistance, although many of you have asked how you can help. I have an idea. I learned what grace was through the CNAs and PCTs that were assigned to me. For those that know me, you know I love learning about the people around me and all of these hospital workers have wonderful stories. But I found myself attached mostly to the folks that show up in my room several times a day to help me with basic needs with as much grace and respect as possible. I also learned, that as a profession, they are terribly underpaid. And they do not get reimbursed for their shoes. I asked one CNA to show me his new Nikes and after a week, they are already starting to lose their tread. When you are on your feet as much as they are, doing incredibly physical work without complaining and only trying to make their patients more comfortable, shoes become really important. With this Go Fund Me, I hope to raise enough money to provide vouchers to the CNAs and PCTs at Cheyenne Regional Hospital and Northern Colorado Long Term Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital to purchase good, quality footwear.

In addition to the single donors, Vines said that Schnee's Footwear out of Bozeman, Montana is also contributing to the idea.

"The President of Schnee's grew up next door to me," Vines revealed. "He heard what was going on and wanted to get involved and they have the Dansko account, which makes nursing clogs. So he's donating 15 pairs of Dansko's, which is no joke. Those things retail for $150."

People are getting behind this idea, because it's a simple one. In fact, it's so simple that nobody else has thought of it. But Vines did. And he did it because he sees how hard CNA's work. And he has experienced, first hand, the type of care and comfort they offer. So he just wanted to give something back.

"I appreciate that they allow us dignity," he said. "They work so hard to provide you with respect and dignity when you're at your worst. And we've put so much pressure on these people over the last year or two and they still keep coming back. It's amazing, and I just want to thank them. I want to thank the doctors for saving my life, and the nurses and CNA's for providing me with care. I'm incredibly grateful."

Bob Vines finally left the Northern Colorado Long Term Acute and Rehabilitation Hospital. He is home now, resting. Maybe tomorrow, he'll take a walk. Maybe in a week, he'll start taking Zoom meetings. Maybe in a month he'll be back at work, once again fighting for the underdog.  But for now, for just a little while, he just wants to sit back and think about that CNA who chose to hold his hand in his most vulnerable moment. He wants to remember the comfort she gave him with her wordless promise that everything would be okay. He wants to smile at the memory.

And then he wants to buy her some shoes.

 

To donate to the fundraiser to buy shoes for CNA's, simply visit the GoFundMe page. Every dollar helps. Every dollar is a 'Thank You.'

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