A Day in the Life of a Parkinson’s Ambassador: Gretchen White

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Our Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassadors are at the heart of our organization. They are our fearless leaders dedicated to living well today, who use their knowledge, passion, and experience to support others going through a Parkinson’s journey. Each Monday during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we will highlight a “Day in the Life” of one of our amazing Ambassadors. This week, we are happy to feature Gretchen White. Here is “a day in her life,” in her own words:

I work in a nursing facility. During the month of December, our facility was heavily affected by many COVID-19 cases. In total, we lost 32 residents. Twenty-one staff members were out of work because they’d contracted the virus. There were only five original staff on hand and five contract staff who were hired to help. I, along with the other staff, worked 10 to 14-hour shifts, every day. I missed Christmas, dinners with my daughter, cuddle time with my puppies, and a great deal of sleep.

It was during this time, though, that I had more opportunities than ever to talk to our residents who were quarantined and their families, as I became a “go-to” because no visits were allowed.  

One conversation I had, brief but impactful, was with a resident being sent to the hospital because he was having difficulty breathingHe could not say much but held my hand while I prayed for him. I never saw him again. Another meaningful moment was with the daughter of one of my favorite residents. Her mother was not eating and had been in and out of the hospital with pneumonia. I spent 30 minutes standing outside with her in the cold, listening to stories about her mother from her childhood. I didn’t say much. Just listened.  The last conversation I’ll mention here was between our oldest resident (she was 100) and her daughter. The night before finally haa weekend off, I went into her room to say goodbye. I gave her the last rites and prayed. I thanked her for making me smile, sharing her stories, and for being an amazing person. It was her daughter who brought all of what I’d done during this hard time to light. She took me aside two days after her mother passed and thanked me. I responded by saying it was my pleasure, because it had been. 

That month helped me to see that sometimes it is not about what we are going through (pain, medication adjustment, fatigue, stiffness) but what others are going through that makes us who we are. We were chosen to be Ambassadors because we have a light inside of us. Let your light shine so that it may bring those in need (with or without Parkinson’s) to you. 

WANT TO GET TO KNOW MORE OF OUR AMBASSADORS?

Each year, our Ambassadors speak with thousands of individuals and families looking for support and community to help them live well with Parkinson’s. Ambassadors are available to speak with you through email, phone, video conference, and in-person. You can look to connect with an Ambassador in your area or reach out to anyone who you think you would connect well with, regardless of location. Learn more and connect here.

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