During the era of Farrah-feathered hairstyles, 13-year old Tilesa stepped foot into William Crissman Junior High School with tight braids and high hopes. This Samoan girl did not look like the other kids, and she did not speak English. Everything was new and different. Even the twirl of the gadget on her locker was so intimidating that she carried all of her books with her for the whole first week! When the mean kid on the bus wouldn’t share a seat with Tilesa, Heather Fears stepped in and ordered the bully to “scoot over!” Tilesa had her first friend. She never forgot that kindness, or what it felt like to have an advocate.
Fast forward past working her first job at age fourteen, past adjusting to a new culture, past attending college on a volleyball scholarship. One day when Tilesa was at work, a man walked through our doors and said, “I am without identity. Can you help me?”
Recognizing that life had been hard on this soul, and remembering her own difficulties, Tilesa responded with compassion. “Give me seven days to figure this out,” she said, “and then come back.” Tilesa dug through old records until she found what was needed. The man did come back and Tilesa handed him more than information. She imparted dignity. Shaking her hand he whispered, “Thank you for helping me be me again.”
Tilesa Tialino is Director of Health Information Management and Facility Privacy Officer at St. Mark’s Hospital.
St. Mark’s Hospital Chaplain Saundra Shanti wanted to connect patients to their caregivers and employees to each other. That’s why she created the Healing Hands portrait series, featuring black and white photographs and stories of St. Mark’s employees at all levels.
“Our patients and families who go in and out know that this is a nurse, and this is a housekeeper, but they don’t know them as people,” Saundra said. “I wanted to humanize our healthcare community to one another and to our families and patients.”
Each photo is accompanied by a story; some biographical, others are anecdotes of experiences that led employees to become caregivers and healthcare professionals. Twelve portraits are currently displayed throughout the hospital, but a total of 36 photos will be rotated throughout the exhibit for the next two months.
By highlighting personal, inspiring and real stories about the staff who will be caring for patients during what can often be an emotional time, the exhibit builds a sense of community. Patients and families will be able to view caregivers as real people with real stories whom they can relate to and connect with, making the hospital experience more personal.
“When we humanize each other, we care more for one another,” Saundra said. “I wanted our employees to be recognized as valuable human beings apart from their professional titles. I wanted to cultivate interaction and respect across our departments and services.”