Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Drummer
Monday, August 17, 2020

“I can't think of any other point in my history that preventive care mattered as much as it does right now.”

By Sue Murray, Volunteer Spotlight Writer

All BCHD volunteers selflessly love the work they do to support our local community, but one volunteer in particular, Mary Drummer, believes that despite her life-time career as a nurse, her recent work assisting BCHD community efforts in response to COVID-19 is one of the most important volunteer projects she’s ever been involved with.

As a retired nurse, member of the LA Medical Reserve Corps, BCHD Volunteer (Community Health Committee, Volunteer Advisory Council, Test Site Volunteer making positive callbacks) and recipient of the BCHD Volunteer Core Value Award for Integrity in 2017, Mary is no stranger to serving the community in a variety of ways using her medical background.

BCHD has been in COVID-19 response since March, running its Redondo Beach testing site in partnership with Los Angeles County. Due to the sheer volume of patients and the nature of the pandemic, people who test through the Los Angeles County community testing sites receive their results via email, while those who test positive at the Redondo Beach site also receive a phone call.

Mary was the first volunteer to begin assisting staff with making these calls. Having retired as a nurse in 2007, the project makes the best use of her skills as a nurse, an educator, communicator and comforter to stop the spread of this devastating virus.

How people respond to the news that they have tested positive can depend on their current symptoms of the virus, social support from family or friends, financial situation, age, health and emotional background to name just a few. For some, the news means that they will be unable to work, or they may already be unemployed and struggling to pay their rent and grocery bills. Others may be uninsured without a family doctor to call. For most, the news is staggering.

So, as Jacqueline Sun, who is supervising the callback team at BCHD explains, “to ensure we are protecting these vulnerable people and the wider community, it's vital that each person who gets a positive test result receives a follow up call to ensure they have all the resources and support they need. Early in the pandemic, our partners at Little Company of Mary had their nurses helping to do these calls. But as ambulatory services opened up at the hospitals, these nurses needed to get back to their jobs and were no longer able to assist us in contacting these positive patients.”

However, these calls were vital to check that each person had received their results, ensure they were managing their symptoms at home, and getting the proper support services and medical attention they need. Added to this, to help curb the spread of the virus, these calls are very important in ensuring people understand the isolation protocol and that they need inform their contacts to self-quarantine. 

Thankfully, BCHD’s wonderful volunteer network once again stepped up to help. BCHD now has seven volunteers, each with either a medical background or training in contact tracing.

As Mary explains, “With this virus, people are scared for themselves and their families. My job is to educate them about quarantine to stop the spread of this virus, assessing their health status and symptom management and additionally offer available support programs; all while treating them with compassion. There is a lot of handholding and comforting and most people are in a state of shock, fear or both. Whether it’s providing information on the food bank, assisting them with applying for insurance, or offering Spanish language translation, our services are unparalleled.”

When appropriate, humor can bring the much-needed relief for someone who hasn’t laughed in a long time.

Mary shares a lovely story of one man in his late 50's that she spoke to. “He was telling me about how he’d been hot for two nights and was so sweaty he was unable to sleep.  I said, ‘If I didn't know better, I'd say you were going through menopause.’ Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.”

Jacqueline Sun adds, “Mary has selfless caring and volunteering in her blood. She demonstrates a deep integrity; the support program wouldn’t be as effective as it is without volunteers like Mary.”

Mary concludes by saying, "this program has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done."