WESTMINSTER — When Christy Belme, 22, entered Carroll County General Hospital on Wednesday to have a cyst removed, her mother and sister expected to bewaiting and wondering until the surgery was over.
Instead, the first-time visitors got periodic updates from volunteers for the hospital's new surgical information program.
"It's like UPS," said Dr. Reynaldo Madrinan, chief of surgery at CCGH. "They always know where your package is. And with this program,you know where your loved one is at all times."
Christy's mother,Claudia, and sister, Barbara, said the volunteers kept them informedof her status "every step of the way."
"Everyone has been so kind," said Claudia of Littlestown, Pa. "We came in at 7 this morning andgave the lady our name, and she told us that she would keep us posted."
Since mid-September, 15 volunteers have kept lines of communication open to family members awaiting progress reports on loved ones undergoing surgery.
"This is a wonderful way in which to use volunteers, because it provides a needed service without adding to the cost," said Gladys Smith, a hospital volunteer for 12 years who started the program.
Family members usually spend a lot of time waiting for reports, Smith said.
"It is a comfort for them to have a link, and this service provides that link."
Program volunteers in blue smocks man a surgical information desk in the hospital's main lobby from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
"We start out each morning with a list of individuals scheduled for surgery that day," Smith said. "Knowing what time their surgeryis to be performed, and their doctor, helps us to keep tabs on the patient and pass their progress on to the family."
Madrinan said the surgical information program "is one of the biggest assets we have as a small institution.
"Basically, the doctor always knows where the family is," he said. "But with this service, it makes things moreorderly."
"With the surgical assistance volunteers, you don't feel like you are all alone," said Barbara, 26.
"If for some reason the surgery is taking longer than it should, or even if it was delayed, you are not sitting here wondering what could have gone wrong," shesaid. "There is someone here to tell you what is happening so you are not worried."
Surgical services volunteers also provide other information, such as directions to the chapel, gift shop, snack area and cafeteria.
"I have been real impressed," Claudia said. "Everyonehas been very kind and very helpful.
"With the area growing like it is, more people will be taking advantage of a local hospital," shesaid.
"This service is a real plus. This hospital not only treatsthe patient, but treats the family, too."