Photos by Keith Borgmeyer
“Unsung”: not celebrated or praised
“Hero”: a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.
Boone Hospital’s Jill Bacon connects with patients through song.
Little moments often have the largest impacts in our lives. Jill Bacon provides patients and their families at Boone Hospital with those little moments by way of encouragement, music, comfort, hope, and laughter as they deal with various ailments in their journey to better health.
“Jill is a transporter at Boone, transporting patients to wherever they need to go, be it to surgery, for a test, discharged to go home, etcetera,” says Barb Danuser, executive director of Boone Hospital Foundation. “She does not just transport patients from point A to point B — she uses this time to visit with patients, providing reassurance and encouragement when needed. She has a wonderful sense of humor and can make a song about most any experience. Jill’s upbeat attitude and love for our patients brightens everyone’s day.”
Sometimes referred to as “the singing ordekurly,” Bacon is an unsung hero who has as large of an impact on her patients as she does on her co-workers at Boone Hospital. She loves to make up clever jingles related to the patient to try to connect with them, make them laugh, and comfort them about the procedure ahead. She loves music and has been singing and making up lyrics to the tune of popular songs for decades. “I firmly believe that there’s a lot more to getting well than just the medicine. I help patients through music and laughter,” Bacon says.
Bacon started working as a patient transport orderly for Boone Hospital in April of 2006, when she was in her 50s. She knew she wanted to work in health care, but it was not feasible for her to go back to school for a nursing or other health care degree at the time. Being a patient transport fit her love for helping people perfectly. “I feel like my job matters because you feel like you can make a difference every day,” Bacon says.
In her ten years at Boone Hospital, Bacon recalls thousands of patients and their families who have touched her life as much as she has touched theirs. Bacon is often recognized by past patients when she’s out and about in Columbia. “It means so much to me that I’ve truly been able to help people,” she says.
Bacon recalls one patient that was particularly touched through her music. The patient was essentially trapped inside of her own body after a horrible stoke. Bacon was humming as she transported the patient down the hall. Suddenly, the patient started humming as well and matched Bacon note for note. Though she wasn’t able to speak, the music had found a way to reach her.
Connecting with people and being able to calm their fears about procedures is something Bacon takes great pride in. It’s all about caring for the whole person and taking a three-dimensional approach to healing; Bacon tends to their emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual health. She’ll often get paged to help reassure a patient or calm them down.
“Even though I’m not a nurse or doctor, I enjoy that I get to give a contribution,” Bacon says. “I try to really connect with the families. Sometimes they’re scared and not sure what to expect. I can tell them about the test and calm them.”
The connections she has made with patients and their families reaches outside the walls of the hospital at times, and Bacon has even attended funerals and other gatherings to let people know she is thinking of them. Though she hates to see people ill, she’s touched when past patients who have been readmitted ask for her and remember her. “It means a lot to me that people are appreciative. It’s a blessing that I get to do that for people,” Bacon says.
Though most of her conversations and connections come through patients she is transporting, Bacon is sometimes asked to sing for patients as well. On more than one occasion, friends and family members have asked if she would come sing a patient’s favorite song or hymn to help in the healing process.
Through it all, Bacon is remembered by many patients as someone who was there in a challenging time of their life to listen, offer comfort, and, perhaps, put a smile on their face. When asked how it feels to be considered an unsung hero, Bacon says: “I feel really grateful that, even though I couldn’t get certified at this stage in my life, they have a lot of respect for me. It means a whole a lot and would make anyone feel like a million dollars.”
To hear some of Jill’s songs, visit these links: