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Pawsitivity: A shot of kindness boosts veteran’s spirits

By Carolyn Kimmel

U.S. Army veteran Robert Trate relies on public transportation to get to important appointments around his Reading home, but there was no stop close to the thing he needed most ─ a COVID-19 vaccination.

“My legs might give out on me, so I’m afraid to walk any distance,” said the 82-year-old widower who battles vascular problems that affect his legs. “I wanted to get the vaccine for a long time, but I just didn’t have a way to get there.”

Trate lives with his daughter and son-in-law, who both have health problems, and he’s not savvy on the computer, so trying to book an appointment was also a problem. And with all the news about the pandemic, Trate was a little afraid to leave his home.

A longtime patient of Penn State Health Vascular Services, Trate mentioned his dilemma to his care team at a recent appointment. They were on it right away.

Physician assistant Staci Gross approached Melissa Shustack, Vascular Services practice site manager, to brainstorm on how to help. Shustack spoke with Mary Moyer, director of ambulatory practices in the Berks Region, who made an appointment for Trate immediately. Leaving nothing to chance, Gross and Jacky Ortega, a surgical scheduler, took Trate to receive his first vaccine and scheduled his second one.

“I’ve known Robert for many years and despite many hardships in his life, he’s always pleasant, on time for appointments and asks how others are doing,” Gross said. “When he mentioned that he couldn’t find the vaccine despite every effort on his part, I knew we needed to help.”

Trate was nearly in tears with appreciation after getting his vaccine. “I love those women,” he said. “I was so surprised they would do that for me. You’ve got good people up there.”

Shustack says this is a prime example of how the Penn State Health Medical Group, Community Practice Division staff is committed to providing an exceptional patient experience, not for recognition but because they care about their patients.

“We’ve picked patients up for surgery at 5:30 a.m. when they didn’t have transportation, bought groceries for someone who was on a special diet and couldn’t afford the food they needed, fostered a dog while the patient was hospitalized and even drove to Hershey Medical Center to visit a patient who was transferred so they knew they weren’t alone,” Shustack said. “I really am blessed to be a part of this team.”

Now, with vaccination behind him, Trate says he isn’t afraid to go out anymore, and he’s looking forward to once again enjoying the freedoms of everyday life he fought to preserve many years ago.

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