Ralph Henry

by Erin from Essex Junction

"Most kids these days think only about entitlement. They just don't realize that there are things you can do that you don't get paid for or get a title out of that benefit people."
Ralph Henry (Taken by me, Erin)
Ralph Henry (Taken by me, Erin)

Ralph Henry was born and raised in Westchester County, New York. Mr. Henry moved to Vermont and worked at Fletcher Allen Health Care, a local organization, for 29 years. Ralph's wife was a head nurse at the hospital. His job there was complaint oriented, for he was in charge of the maintenance department there. The fact that the patients there had paid his salary enough for him to be able to retire made him want to give back to them.

Mr. Henry volunteers at the dialysis unit, where they use machines to help your body clean your blood if you have renal disease (Kidney disease). In order to clean the blood, you must have basic supplies to connect patients to machines. Mr. Henry makes "packs". There are two kinds of "packs". There is a basic pack that consists of alcohol wipes, gauze, two connectors, etc. that are used to hook patients up to the machines, and then there is a more patient specific pack. Mr. Henry makes about 300 packs for about 100 patients each Friday, and every one of them needs at least two packs per visit. Mr. Henry fills three tubs that are roughly the size of a laundry basket with these packs. He says it takes him about three hours to do this. "It's like being the guy at the car factory who makes the lug nuts," says Henry."It's a little job, but it's crucial to make the car work."

My mother, a nurse at the dialysis unit, told me that if Mr. Henry weren't doing the volunteer work he is now, it wouldn't run as smoothly and would be a lesser form of chaos, in a way, because it would take them much longer to run around and gather necessary supplies. Mr. Henry doesn't really feel that what he does is important, but I noticed that the nurses feel otherwise and treat him with the utmost respect.

Not only does Mr. Henry make packs, he goes out of his way to make patients feel comfortable and happy. For instance, there is one patient he has known for many years, and he knows that this patient likes to read. So, Mr. Henry brings him books that he thinks he will like to read every now and then. He will bring other patients books, talks to them, and other little things like that to help brighten up their day.

No one he knew when he was growing up was a volunteer. In fact, his volunteer work has nothing to do with what he wanted to be when he grew up; a merchant marine ships engineer. I asked Mr. Henry what made him want to volunteer specifically in the dialysis unit, and he told me that there was a man doing the same there before him. He said that there was no real inspiration, so to speak, but rather a need that had to be filled. He also said that it was a much different environment than his job at the hospital.

Another thing I asked Mr. Henry about was if there were any challenges or highlights in his volunteer work. He told me that there were no peaks or valleys, and he described his work as "a tedious but necessary task."

Ralph is my hero because of how dedicated he is to his work and how he helps not only the nurses, but the patients too. Ralph said, "Most kids these days think only about entitlement. They just don't realize that there are things you can do that you don't get paid for or get a title out of that benefit people."

Page created on 5/8/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/8/2014 12:00:00 AM

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Related Links

Fletcher Allen Volunteer Program - Here's how you can get involved at Fletcher Allen