By Jennifer Bringle
In 2019, Asheville Specialty Hospital registered nurse Lindsey Bauers faced an almost unimaginable choice. Her father, Lowell Bauers, was in end-stage renal failure, and the only thing that might prolong his life was a kidney transplant. Bauers wanted to give him one of her kidneys, but as a full-time nurse and the mother of a small child, she wasn’t sure how she’d be able to afford the time off work and childcare she’d need during the eight-week recovery period following the transplant.
That’s where the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund came in.
Since 2005, the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund has provided more than 37,000 system employees with more than $61 million in funds for hardships that range from illness and death of a loved one to domestic violence and recovery from natural disasters. More recently, the program has even provided funds for childcare to employees whose children are home from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Mission Health, Human Resources Coordinator Christine Gowing heads up the program, processing dozens of applications each year and working directly with fund recipients.
“In 2019, for Mission and sister facilities, we assisted with 51 grants for a total of $138,600,” she said. “The issues and financial hardships that come up are all pretty serious, and to be able to provide help to our colleagues when they need it the most is an incredible opportunity. I’m extremely proud to be part of this.”
For Bauers, those funds allowed her to take the necessary time off to recover from her kidney donation.
“I only had so much PTO time, so that was going to be designated to paying my insurance,” Bauers said. “I was out for eight weeks, and I was only getting four weeks’ worth of a paycheck, and I still had to pay bills. You can only save so much, so having the money helped me pay my bills and pay for childcare while my parents weren’t able to watch my daughter.”
Hope Fund grants cap at $5,000, but Gowing said recipients can reapply if there’s an additional financial hardship within the same year. And the program isn’t just about money. Gowing takes a personal interest in all the recipients, offering emotional support along with the financial assistance.
“There’s extended follow-up,” she said. “Every person I deal with almost becomes a member of my family, and I keep in contact with all our recipients. I’m letting them know it’s not just handing them a check—it’s providing that hug through the phone, a reminder that you can always call me if you’re having a bad day.”
For Bauers, the support she received through the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund did far more than just pay her bills and provide childcare. It made it possible for her to give her father a second chance at life.
“My dad’s whole personality has changed since getting a kidney,” she said. “He has a new lease on life, and he wants to share that with everyone, which is great. He’s no longer on dialysis, and he can travel and go camping—he can even get in our hot tub now. He was always quiet and reserved and didn’t say much or express his opinion, and now he doesn’t stop talking. He talks constantly, and he’s always sharing something with us—it’s really great.”
Gowing said cases like Bauer’s are exactly what the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund is all about, and she feels grateful that HCA and Mission Health make it possible for her to have such an important impact on the lives of her colleagues.
“That’s just one of so many stories I’ve been part of since I’ve even been working with the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund,” Gowing said. “It’s incredible, and I always keep a box of tissues on hand, because you’re going to need them. In the world we live in right now, there’s so much going on, and where do you go to get a hug these days? When we have those conversations, it’s like I’m there embracing them. I want them to feel loved.”
Christine Gowing is a Human Resources Coordinator at Mission Health.