A decade ago, Ron Geren had a heart attack and spent two weeks in an induced coma. When he woke up, his wife, who was sitting at his bedside, asked if he recognized her. “Marilyn Monroe,” he said. Then she asked if he knew his own name. “Bill Clinton,” he replied.
She scurried out of the room and announced to the staff, “He’s back, folks!”
Geren’s knack for diffusing difficult situations with humor continues in his role as a patient ambassador at University Hospital. On Mondays and Thursdays, he arrives at 5:45 a.m. and winds his way around the facility, collecting wheelchairs and returning them to the main entrance. As the hospital comes to life with a new day, he guides patients to their destinations, delivers cards and puts smiles on faces.
“If I see a couple walking through holding hands, I’ll say, ‘Do you folks know each other?’ That perks them up,” Geren said. “I’ll take a bouquet of flowers to a patient upstairs and say, ‘Here are some beautiful flowers for a beautiful lady.’ They’re lying there with tubes running out of them, but that makes their day. It makes my day, too.”
Geren worked for MU Health Care’s engineering department for 22 years, mostly hanging wall covering. Now retired, he decided to become a volunteer three years ago after his cardiologist suggested he lose weight. Geren’s step counter shows he often walks more than 5 miles during his shift. He’s dropped 35 pounds.
“What better way to lose weight than to walk around this building and help out,” he said.
Tammy Gillespie — MU Health Care’s manager of volunteer services, spiritual care and gift shops — said Geren is one of her stars.
“Ron is an absolute joy to work with,” she said. “And he’s a shining example of research that shows that volunteering is good for one’s health.”