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When Elese Grays comes to work at IU Health, she feels like she’s coming to her second home.
She was working at the former Hook’s Drugstore across the street when she looked up at the hospital and thought: “I’d like to work there.” She applied and was hired to work in the kitchen on the sixth floor.
What meant the most to Elese Grays was that like her former drugstore employer - an Indiana-based chain - there was a small-town feel to this big hospital. That was back in 1975. And even though the IU Health campus has grown exponentially over those 43 years, Grays says it still feels like home when she walks through the door.
From the window outside the fourth floor of the Glen Lehman Endoscopy Suite at University Hospital, Grays can look out at the expanded hospital campus.
“I have watched all the changes over the years. There used to be houses and a school over there and now it’s all developed over the years,” said Grays. “Inside the hospital new parts have built around the old parts. I think about that when I come in every morning and I feel like I’ve grown with it.”
From her first assignment in the kitchen, Grays moved into the areas of distributing supplies, and sterilizing equipment. She eventually became an endoscopy technician. Her badge shows various credentials “CRCST,” “CIS,” “CNA,” and “CFER” –all earned through continuing education during more than four decades of employment at IU Health. In her present job she cleans and processes scopes and transports patients from their procedures to their cars.
“Some patients drive two or three hours to come here. They know this is the best hospital. I love hearing their stories,” said Grays. “It’s like I get the best of both worlds – I learn from the patients and I learn on the job. Who wouldn’t like that?”
In addition to working at IU Health, Grays gave birth to a son and daughter at University and Methodist Hospitals, and also has a granddaughter who was born at Methodist.
“When we were doing the da Vinci (a robotic surgery device) my uncle was a patient here. My father was a patient here for CLPD (chronic lymph proliferative disorders), and my mother receives cancer treatments through IU Health,” said Grays. “When my dad died, I just can’t say enough about the doctors, nurses, everyone especially in ICU. They were so caring.”
In addition to her mother Grays helps care for her 100-year-old grandmother. She is the oldest child with three younger brothers. The family moved to Indianapolis from Birmingham, Ala. when Grays was seven. “Everyone thought I took care of my younger brothers, but really they took care of me,” said Grays.
In her adult life though, she’s known as “the helper.” Whether it means cooking a meal or offering assistance with car repairs, Grays is ready to serve others and not expect anything in return.
“My father was an honest man always willing to help others. You aren’t going to meet everyone who is like that but you should always give it your best, roll with the punches and stay positive,” said Grays.
And what about her next move at IU Health? “Believe it or not but I think I’d like to try working in dialysis. I’m not done here by any stretch,” said Grays. “I’ve learned a lot here. It’s like a second home and one of the best things is that I try to treat every patient special and I learn that I get back so much more than I give away.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email email@example.com.