Volunteer puts patients first
Vince Krydynski understands that most of the people he encounters each Tuesday at Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute are going through a stressful time. So he tries to bring a little humor into play when he escorts them from the third-floor waiting area to the lab.
“When I read the patients' names in the waiting room, I'll say, ‘Come on down!' like on the game show,” he said. “Sometimes, they'll ask, ‘Well, what do I win?' I say, ‘I'm not sure, but I do know they've got some needles back there.'”
He knows from experience that it's serious business – both he and his late wife, Mary Ellen, received treatment at Gibbs – but he says a light joke can sometimes take the edge off a patient's stress.
Krydynski is one of the many community members who volunteer their time, energy, and talent to support Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. He enjoys the interaction with patients and families and values the opportunity to help caregivers keep schedules on track.
His efforts don't go unappreciated.
“Vince's sense of humor and work ethic make him an invaluable part of the team,” said volunteer services manager Jill Dugaw. “The staff in the Gibbs lab tell me frequently that they feel a sense of relief when he is there, as they know he will keep the work flowing smoothly and the patients happy.”
Recognized with the healthcare system's Excellence in Volunteering award earlier this year, Krydynski explained his philosophy: “The most important person is the patient – you've got to put the patient first.”
He estimates he sees as many as 140 patients during a typical shift. And he walks up to five miles – round trip after round trip, from the waiting room to the lab and back.
He doesn't mind the exercise. Krydynski, 80, lives at White Oak Estates. He enjoys working out in the gym there, and he helps out at the swimming pool.
“The thing I hate is if people retire at 65 and say, ‘I want to sit in a recliner and watch TV the rest of my life,'” he said.
Krydynski grew up in Chicago and joined the Marines after high school. He returned to the city several years later and took a job with R.R. Donnelly printing company, where he learned to run machines in the bindery.
Krydynski stood out as a talented and hard worker and earned opportunities in management. In 1981, he took a position as a supervisor in the company's new plant in Spartanburg. He and Mary Ellen moved their family into a home in the Hillbrook neighborhood. Three Krydynski children graduated from Spartanburg High School – the oldest had finished school before the family's move.
After he retired from Donnelly in 1993 as the manager of binding and shipping, Vince and Mary Ellen moved to Tryon, NC. He purchased a furniture store in Columbus that he ran into the early 2000s, and Mary Ellen worked as a nurse practitioner.
They were making plans to move back to Spartanburg several years ago when Mary Ellen learned that she had cancer. She underwent radiation treatment at Gibbs, but the cancer was too far advanced and her condition worsened. She passed away at Spartanburg Regional Hospice Home in 2016.
Krydynski said he appreciates the care Mary Ellen received from both Gibbs and Spartanburg Regional Hospice.
He's been a patient at Spartanburg Regional, too. He was treated for prostate cancer and for two heart attacks. He was impressed with the healthcare system in each case, including the heart center.
"People asked me, ‘Why didn't you go to Atlanta for treatment?' I said, ‘I'd like to see any hospital where I could have gotten better care than here because it was excellent,'” he said.
Volunteering at Gibbs is a way to give back. It's also a way to feel connected, to be part of a team. He's a member of the Volunteer Advisory Council,
"It allows him to be a voice for his fellow volunteers,” Dugaw said, noting that he works to recruit other retirees to volunteer.
Krydynski makes sure to take time to relax and to enjoy being with his numerous grandchildren who live in the area. But he plans to continue doing his part to support patients and caregivers at Spartanburg Regional. “As long as I'm healthy, I'll do it,” he said.
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