Talking to Karen Justin about why she loves her job, you’d swear that she gets teary eyes. A patient and family liaison in the Ghesquiere Center for Children’s Surgery at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, she treats each child as someone special.
“I love children,” says Karen. “To make a child smile is the best part of my job. Just seeing their face light up when we can do something special for them that takes their mind off their procedure is priceless.”
Though she’s been a member of the Beaumont family for 20 years, she’s a newbie in the surgery center. “I’ve been here since January,” says Karen. “When I saw this job open up, I knew it was my dream job.”
For the last eight months, Karen has worked on making the surgery center experience as pleasant as possible for the kids and their parents. She created a play area with a zoo theme using images of animals that she laminated and placed around the walls. She also worked with Childlife Services to have zoo and animal-themed toys available.
There’s now a coloring table with an assortment of crayons and pages to decorate. “I make it fun for them,” she says. “I hang up the pictures the kids color around the front desk and that makes them so proud. When they come out of surgery, some of the kids actually look to make sure their picture is still hanging up.”
But perhaps one of the most meaningful things she does for the kids is something that she does on her own time. Several years ago, Comfort Bears for Kids started dropping off stuffed bears for the children having surgery in the Ghesquiere Center. The donor was dropping off the bears himself, but was unable to keep up the schedule.
Hearing about this, Karen and her husband Tom took up the task. “We don’t mind doing it, and we’ll keep doing it until the donor stops,” she says. “To see those kids smile when they get those bears just makes my day. We see some kids frequently here and one time there was a little boy yelling down the hall, ‘I gotta go get my bear!’”
As the seasons and holidays change, Karen decorates the waiting room, and hands out bears accordingly. For St. Patrick’s Day, everyone gets a green bear. On Valentine’s Day, the bears are red. For her, every gesture has meaning. Even though the Ghesquiere Center is for children’s surgery, some adult surgeries take place there, too. Karen can see patients who are preemies and older adults. But she doesn’t care how old they are. “We’re here to make people happy,” she says. “That’s why we’re here – for service.”