Patti O'Connor has a lot of stories to tell. Each one tugs on your heartstrings.
"I had a patient who came to the Emergency Room because she was so sick she had to miss work," the social worker said. "She couldn't afford to miss work. She needed the money. The doctor prescribed her some medicine, but she was in between paychecks and couldn't afford to get the prescriptions filled. She didn't have the medicine she needed to get better. She got even sicker. She missed more work. The more work she missed, the more she couldn't pay for her medication."
Like many in poverty, that patient was stuck in a vicious cycle - until the Foundation provided the money, through the Barbara Borland Peelle Memorial Fund, for the medication.
"I've been doing this for 11 years," O'Connor said. "It's sad to see the situations people are faced with. It's heartbreaking. One elderly patient was so sick she had to call 911 for help. The ambulance brought her to the ER. We treated her, and she was discharged at 2 o'clock in the morning. She had no family. She had no car. She had no one to call. And ambulances can't be used to transport patients back home. There was nobody to help her. She was stranded."
Fortunately, through the Foundation, Howard Regional was able to pay the cab fare to get her home.
"For most people, it's very hard to ask for help," O'Connor said. "A nurse will alert me that a patient is in need. When I go into a room and offer help, I say, 'What can I do for you today?' The person will say, 'I'm fine.' They don't want to ask for help. I say the word social worker, and they hear the word welfare. But there are a lot of people who are truly in need. It's good that we have the Foundation to help them."