On October 5th, 2021, BALA co-founder Brian Lockard visited the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His visit was part of a collaboration with Robert (Bob) Vines, a survivor of a severe case of COVID-19 who sought BALA's help in thanking the CNAs who worked to save his life. Together, Bob and BALA gifted over 200 pairs of nursing shoes to the CRMC. Read on to learn more about the donation and how it came to life, from both Brian and Bob's perspectives!
Bob Vines was treated for a breakthrough case of COVID-19* at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, and was overcome with gratitude for the CNAs who cared for him everyday. Bob wanted to thank the CNAs and asked several of them what they needed most.
Several said they needed better shoes! Bob did a Google search for "best nurse shoes" and saw a number of great reviews for BALA, so he wrote to ask what we could do.
BALA donated 225 pairs of shoes to outfit all of the CNAs at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center with a pair of BALA Twelves! The donation was a real team effort. First, Bob had the idea and did the work to reach out to us. Next, we had to figure out how to ship 225 pairs together to Cheyenne. Our Operations Director Brianna worked with our warehouse and shipping partner to gather sizes and get them to Wyoming quickly. Lastly, Bob and his wife coordinated with the hospital staff to set up a day and time when we could all get together to make the donation.
It was a wonderful day. The staff and CNAs in Cheyenne were fantastic. I had the opportunity to talk with dozens of the CNAs and hear them share about what their days are like. CNAs are one of the foundations of the health care system whose work often goes unnoticed and is absolutely essential. We should all go beyond what’s expected to thank them.
I was taking immunosuppressants for a kidney disease that left me at high risk. I believe I picked it [COVID-19] up at a beer festival. I have very little memory of the days leading up to my hospitalization. I do know that I waited too long to get help and it nearly killed me. Thankfully, my wife stepped in and got me to the emergency room just in time. I was intubated and put on a ventilator immediately. I was in and out of consciousness for a couple weeks, then pretty non-communicative other than eye-rolls and head shakes (which I'm sure the nursing staff appreciated). I can't think of a more vulnerable position to be in–– stuck in bed without the ability to move or communicate.
Although I appreciate and essentially owe my life to the doctors and my incredible nursing staff, I was also moved by the work of the CNAs. They never made me feel embarrassed about needing their help and they provided me with dignity and respect no matter the situation. Once I had my tracheostomy done and had the use of a speaking filter, I started talking their ears off. So many of the CNAs came to their work through a desire to become nurses themselves, or they had some sort of personal experience that led them to this work. They all had a reason to be there. I started asking about their shoes, too. I knew they put a lot of miles on them and they don't get reimbursed for their shoes. I also know that they don't make a lot of money. In my still very foggy state, I decided that buying my CNAs new shoes would be a good way to show my appreciation. Also, in my very foggy state, I figured I would be buying six or seven pairs because those were the only CNAs I ever saw. I was way off on that one.
Every CNA I had provided me with comfort and compassion on top of the physical labor required for their job. One day, the realization of what I had been through and how close I came to losing my life really hit me hard. I was feeling incredible joy, gratitude, and appreciation. I was still non-communicative and really had no way to express any emotions other than to cry. So here's this big old lug of a guy soaking his pillow with no way of letting anyone know that these were good tears–– the best kind. Then this CNA walks in, pulls up a chair, and just holds my hand for I don't know how long–– but it was a long time. It was like she knew exactly what I was going though. Although I admire the long shifts and incredibly hard labor that goes into their work, it was the comfort that CNA provided me during one of the most significant moments of my life that will stick with me forever.
Once I was in the long-term acute hospital, I started finding myself with a lot of time on my hands. It was a really slow process, but I was also able to start working on my cell phone. I asked my son to help me set up a GoFundMe page and research how many CNAs were at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. Once we learned that there were nearly 200, I knew we would have to come up with a different plan. Although my social media friends were very generous and I knew that my previous life as a Wyoming newspaper editor still pulled some press clout, we were still going to have to build a partnership to provide the type of nurses' shoes we wanted the CNAs to have.
I started researching shoe manufacturers and found that BALA has some really good reviews from nurses. I liked that they were a fairly new company and that they had a strong sense of their role in the community. I also really liked that they put some real thought into their product, interviewing hundreds of nurses about their needs. And, again, the reviews were stellar. I reached out through the website and decided to wait until I heard back from BALA before contacting anyone else. You guys answered my email within a day and a day after that, I had a phone call scheduled with Brian. That, in itself, is pretty impressive. And Brian didn't hesitate, he said that BALA wanted to be involved even before we had a real plan in place.
It truly feels great to give back and we would have never been able to pull this off without BALA. I will never be able to repay all of the health care professionals that contributed to my survival, nor will I ever find the words to adequately express my gratitude. The shoes were a big part of beginning to pay back that debt I owe, and I'll let the insurance cover the rest. But hanging out with the CNAs, hospital staff, and Brian hardly seemed like work that day. As a matter of fact, maybe the best thing to come out of this was making a new friend. I'm learning it's good to have friends in shoebiz (yes, bad pun intended).
*Bob Vines was fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when he contracted the virus. As an immunocompromised person, he was at higher risk of becoming infected despite the protective measures. That said, COVID-19 vaccines have efficacy rates above 95%, meaning that they are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. In combination with masks and social distancing, they are a crucial part of public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-10 and to protect people like Bob.