Hospital employee's work inspires scholarship
Scholarship aids aspiring respiratory therapists
More than 20 years ago, Washington Hospital respiratory therapist Margaret Chaika began working with Leroy Hack, a former patient in the hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.
When Mr. Hack passed away, his family stayed in touch with Chaika and found a way to honor her for the care she provided, as well as provide for future respiratory therapists who each day help people breath better.
Mr. Hack’s wife, Audrey M. Hack, and his children, Roy L. Hack, Cherilyn Hack, Gwen Qual and Jacqueline Bradley, an Ohlone College employee recently promoted to Director of Financial Aid, have worked with the college to create a special scholarship for students aspiring to become respiratory therapists through Ohlone’s two-year program.
The new LeRoy F. Hack Scholarship is now being offered to students in the Respiratory Therapist Program in recognition of the care and support Chaika extended to Mr. Hack and his family.
Chaika, who has worked at Washington Hospital for 30 years, saw the launch of Washington Hospital’s pulmonary rehabilitation program more than 20 years ago.
"(Mr. Hack) was part of the Better Breathing for Life Club," Chaika said. "He was one of my first patients."
She remembers the Thanksgiving weekend she visited the Hack’s home to help properly set up Mr. Hack’s oxygen 15 years ago. Mr. Hack suffered from emphysema and was later diagnosed with cancer. When he came home to spend the holiday with his family, he still needed to use his oxygen, according to his daughter, Jacqueline. When the family discovered the oxygen was not working properly, they called Chaika.
"It was the above and beyond that Margaret did for my father," said Jacqueline. She emphasized that endowing a scholarship at Ohlone College to help future students requires as little as $10,000. She encourages others to find ways to help students and honor their loved ones.
Chaika said she was truly surprised when she found out from Carol McNamee, Ohlone College’s Respiratory Therapist Program director, that the Hacks wanted to honor her with the scholarship.
The scholarship will allow the college and Washington Hospital to complete the circle of support needed to help keep well-trained respiratory therapists in the Tri-City Area, according to Chaika.
Chaika, who said she has always been interested in giving back to the community, first became interested in helping people breath better after a friend recommended she tour the inhalation therapy department at a local hospital.
"My mother worked as a pink lady at Eden Hospital and encouraged her daughters to do the same for the community," says Chaika.
Now, as a longtime staff respiratory therapist with Washington Hospital, Chaika works throughout the hospital helping "anytime anyone can’t breath."
She sees patients with all kinds of respiratory conditions and illnesses, restrictive and obstructive, including: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma and tuberculosis.
All respiratory therapists officially called Respiratory Care Practitioners receive their license after successfully completing state mandated exams.
After many years of service, Chaika is nowhere near slowing down. For the past ten years, she has lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, commuting to Fremont on Monday and returning on Friday. She will receive her 30-year employee recognition award from the hospital this coming March in honor of her outstanding efforts and tenure with the Washington Hospital Healthcare System.
"It went fast," Chaika jokes. "I still have quite a few years in me."
During this past year, the support group Chaika works with has had an average of 45 to 65 patients per month. Chaika arranges to have all five Washington Hospital Medical Staff Pulmonologists and other Washington Hospital specialists speak on different topics at the meetings, including: TB exposure, new drugs for treatments, traveling, flu, pneumonia and diabetes. According to Chaika, many diabetics are also pulmonary patients.
"We’re sharing life experiences," Chaika says. "I try to treat my patients like they’re my parents. I feel that when you treat your elders like your family members, I don’t think you can ever go wrong."
Her passion for her calling and love of where she works both run in her family, Chaika said. Both her sister and niece also work at Washington Hospital in health care.
"I think Washington Hospital is a family," she says. "I don’t think I could work with a better staff I think you have to be a team."
Chaika said her hope for this scholarship is that it will enable other respiratory therapists to contribute to the community in the future.
"We always want to be acknowledged for doing good work," Chaika says. "I guess putting in the time, it’s really a pay off."
Ultimately, the greatest reward her career offers is seeing someone come in for treatment whose life is limited by respiratory illness and watch them leave her six-week program with improved mobility.
"If you can’t breath, nothing else matters," Chaika said, summing up why she has spent three decades helping patients like Mr. Hack improve their quality of life, for themselves and their families.
For more information about Washington Hospital’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program and programs offered by Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com.