January 29, 2020

Volunteering in the ER Showed Me that Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

volunteer steve smigelskiBy Steve Smigelski

Before volunteering at Mission Hospital, I worked as a vehicular homicide detective in the Accident Investigation Unit of the City of Miami Police Department. I worked in this capacity for a total of 23 years. The job entailed responding to and investigating traffic incidents that involved fatalities or potential fatalities. The average number of such incidents I investigated was approximately 25 per year.

The job entailed determining if the incident was an accident or a potential crime scene (ie, DUI, reckless driving), investigating the scene, supervising support personnel (crime scene investigators, public service aides), notifying the State Attorney’s office in order to determine if criminal charges should be filed, and notifying immediate family members if there was a death of anyone involved in the incident. As part of the investigative process, I interviewed those involved in the incidents. Many of these interviews took place in hospital emergency rooms.

My wife, Sylvia, and I moved to Asheville in 2006. Sylvia continued her work as a middle school math teacher. Weekends and holidays were spent discovering and enjoying all that the area had to offer. We began (and continue) to travel overseas, and best of all traveling to visit our children and grandchildren.

I soon found that I had a lot of free time. Mission Hospital seemed like the ideal place to volunteer. Before I knew it, I had completed the requirements for becoming a volunteer at Mission. One of the available volunteer opportunities was in the emergency department. Since I was familiar with emergency department procedures, I agreed to give it a try.

The most satisfying aspects of volunteering in the emergency department are seeing a patient smile when they are given a blanket or pillow, or when a family member thanks me for offering a soda or an escort to the cafeteria. The most satisfying is seeing a child smile when given a small toy or a happy face sticker. I have also noticed that the staff of the emergency department, from the maintenance personnel to the medical personnel, are always professional and caring. Volunteering in the emergency department feels like home to me — I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Romeo pet therapy dogMeet Romeo, a pet therapy dog with Mission’s Paws On A Mission program. Learn more about this volunteer program at missionhealth.org/pet-therapy.


If you enjoy helping others, consider joining the Mission Health volunteer team. Learn more at missionhealth.org/volunteers.