December 29, 2009

What is a Hero?

There is something about Mary!

garyBy Gary Metivier

The word Hero is overused these days. That is a comment I have heard from a lot of people—and it happens to be a comment I agree with. That said, I firmly believe we have everyday heroes all around us. There are many people in the QCA that have jobs or perform services for others that many of us just couldn’t do.

For the past month we have been profiling everyday heroes on KWQC-TV6. It has been one of the most rewarding series I have ever done. I hoped we would find four people that would represent the
commitment, dedication and compassion to give of themselves to make life better for others. I found much more than I bargained for—and it has made me even more proud of the place we all call home.

If my editor here allows (if this shows up in print—that will mean they did) I would like to share some of my heroes with you over the next few editions.

There is something about Mary!

metivier1I want to start with the hospice nurse that has given so much of her life to help others at the end of their lives. I first met Mary Weinfurtner Kozlov doing a story on the Honor Flight of the QCA. She was asked to go a flight with a veteran she was already caring for. In our interview for a special on the honor flight program, I was deeply touched by Mary’s compassion. I also had to stop and think—“could I do that? Could I spend my life getting to know people who are dying?”

At first I thought it selfish of me to answer that question with a “no.” But after talking with a lot of people about it, I came to realize it takes a special person with some unique gifts to be able to do that. Not many of us could say we could form new relationships just to see them come to an end less than 6 months later. It has to hurt. But for people like Mary (and thankfully there are many out there) that is their calling. I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand this gift.

“It’s not depressing,’ she explained with a smile. “It is hard. My goal is help them work towards a peaceful, comfortable and dignified death and help the family come to acceptance of it.”

Mary got into hospice because she wanted to get to know her patients in their own environment –outside of the hospital setting. Most of her days are spent on the road visiting them in their homes. And for her—one of those days was one she will never forget.

“It was amazing!” Mary explained talking about the Honor Flight and the veteran she was caring for. “I didn’t expect to become such good friends with him. But when you go through something that gives him so much joy, seeing him see his memorial, and we got to experience it together. To be able to help him succeed in such a big task in his life. It was a wonderful thing.”

And it was not just the man she was there for. She watched as the men, most of whom were in their 80’s, went through a transformation.

“When they got home they weren’t old men anymore. They were young men. They had energy. They had life. It taught me to see my patients on a whole new level. They were just like me. Their bodies may be older or they may have sick bodies—but inside they are just like me.”

The looks on their faces, the smiles, the pride, the passion—these are the things that keep people like Mary going. And, I don’t know about you, but it makes me smile to know we have heroes like her in our everyday lives.

Let me know of a hero in your life at