Celebrating HCA Healthcare Hope Fund Week with powerful stories of hope

Headshot of Sarah Sunkel

Our mission to care for and improve human life is amplified by the support given to HCA Healthcare colleagues in need through the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund. This week marks HCA Healthcare Hope Fund Week and we are celebrating what we do best: care like family.

To date, the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund has provided more than $53 million in grants to HCA Healthcare colleagues in need, and 65% of those grants go to families that are struggling with an illness or injury. What’s more – because of the generosity of more than 36,000 donors, the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund recently announced an enhanced grant maximum of $5,000. 

The HCA Healthcare Hope Fund was established in 2005 so that colleagues could provide support to fellow colleagues impacted by natural disaster, illness, injury, domestic violence, the death of a loved one or any number of unavoidable hardships.

“Because of your generosity, the Hope Fund was able to help 3,762 families last year and more than 34,000 families since the inception of the fund,” said Sam Hazen, HCA Healthcare’s chief executive officer. “Every day more than a dozen members of our HCA Healthcare family find themselves needing help when faced with an unexpected hardship. I am very proud of our HCA Healthcare family and how we care for one another through the Hope Fund.”

Sam Hazen holding handwritten poster that says ">34,000 families helped with $53 Million" and Sandra Morgan holding handwritten poster that says "I (heart) the Hope Fund! #OURHOPEFUND #HCACARES"
Celebrating HCA Healthcare Hope Fund Week at our corporate headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.: HCA Healthcare’s chief executive officer, Sam Hazen (left) with senior vice president, national physician and provider relations, Sandra Morgan (right)

Did you know?

In 2018 alone, we granted $1.1 million in HCA Healthcare Hope Fund assistance to HCA Healthcare families affected by natural disasters.

Our colleagues are not just co-workers, they’re family

1. Sarah’s story of hope

Sarah Sunkel, a HCA Healthcare clinical supervisor from Virginia, had been experiencing some unusual twitching in her leg and knew something wasn’t right. Her symptoms continued to get worse which led to an ER visit. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Sarah had a grand mal seizure. A CT scan revealed that she had a cancerous brain tumor.

Headshot of Sarah Sunkel
Sarah Sunkel, a HCA Healthcare clinical supervisor from Virginia received aid from the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund

Sarah underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The treatment and recovery were long and difficult. She returned to work after three months. On her first day back, she applied for help from the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund due to the expenses that had piled up.

“The medical bills were making me sick to my stomach,” Sarah said. “I didn’t see myself ever being able to cover the cost, and it was very scary. Knowing the Hope Fund is there to help is amazing.”

When Sarah applied for help, she didn’t know what to expect, but after receiving assistance thanks to HCA Healthcare Hope Fund donors, she is so grateful.  To other colleagues in crisis, Sarah says, “If you need assistance, I encourage you to apply for the Hope Fund, it’s there to help.”

2. Nurse receives help from her HCA Healthcare family

Beverly Blount-McKay, a registered nurse at affiliate Doctors Hospital of Augusta in Georgia, has spent more than 33 years in an operating room. Surgery is almost a daily part of Beverly’s life – so when she required a knee replacement, she felt well-prepared for the operation and subsequent recovery. Unfortunately, Beverly developed an infection during her recovery. Her physician took immediate action and developed an aggressive treatment plan to resolve her condition, but requiring additional surgeries meant she was unable to walk for six months and unable to work for a year.

Beverly Blount-McKay wearing scrubs and typing on a keyboard in a hospital room
Beverly Blount-McKay, a registered nurse at affiliate Doctors Hospital of Augusta was helped during a time of need through the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund

After confiding to a physician that she was having trouble paying her bills and worried about necessary expenses like groceries, he connected her with the chief executive officer at Doctors Hospital of Augusta. “The CEO called me and then put me in touch with Megan Joy in HR who encouraged me to apply for help through the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund,” said Beverly. It couldn’t have come at a better time as her short-term disability had just ended.

“The funds I received from the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund helped pay for food, utilities and gas so I could get to doctor’s appointments and the hospital,” said Beverly. “It helped me survive, and I’m extremely grateful.”

Beverly encourages her HCA Healthcare colleagues to donate to help others in their time of need. “The Hope Fund is a wonderful tool to help people when an unexpected misfortune happens in their life. I am grateful to the employees who donate, and I encourage everyone who is able to give to the Hope Fund to do so. It’s a worthy cause and gives people hope.”

3. Caring colleagues aid chaplain during a difficult recovery

As chaplain at affiliate Lee’s Summit Medical Center in Missouri, Steve Satterfield’s role involves providing much needed support and spiritual guidance to patients. But when he had a major medical event, it was his colleagues and the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund who stepped in to provide him with the support he desperately needed.

Steve Satterfield standing next to an altar and a cross
The HCA Healthcare Hope Fund provided Steve Satterfield, chaplain at Lee’s Summit Medical Center in Missouri, with support after a major medical event

One day, Steve was hiking in the Ozarks enjoying nature, fresh air, and exercise. The very next day, he was rushed to the emergency room (ER). He fought for his life over the next several weeks, and by the end of his recovery medical professionals told him it was a miracle he survived.

Steve experienced a hiatal hernia which caused an esophageal rupture requiring immediate hospitalization and emergency surgery. He remembers arriving in the ER and being told he needed a CT scan and to be intubated. He asked the ER staff to pray with him, and the next thing he remembers is waking up 18 days later in the cardiac intensive care unit of a different hospital.

He experienced kidney failure, his lungs were shutting down, his heartbeat was dangerously irregular, and eventually he developed pneumonia. Steve was hospitalized for a month due to his dire condition. He first wondered if he would ever recover physically, and then how his family could ever pay off all of the medical bills.

Though he tried to stay focused on his recovery, he was worried he might lose his home. Steve and his family needed help. Thanks to donations made by our colleagues across the organization, the Hope Fund was able to provide financial assistance allowing Steve and his wife to focus on what was important – getting healthy again.

Steve is incredibly grateful for the support of his colleagues through the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund. “The medical care I received gave me life,” Steve said. “The help from the Hope Fund has allowed me to live.”

4. Support for Sheri during a difficult time

Sheri Tolbert is a new patient scheduler and has worked at HCA Healthcare for about four years. She assists patients with providing background information and demographics as well as scheduling their procedures.

Her husband, Tony, had been having some odd symptoms lately, but he was convinced it was just gallbladder trouble. Though Sheri kept reminding him to see a doctor about it, she says “I don’t mind saying he was a very stubborn man.” The two had what their friends describe as a fairy tale story – they dated in high school, then went their separate ways. They found each other again thirty years later and were happily married in September of 2011.

Sheri Tolbert sitting on a park bench, holding a framed photo
New patient scheduler Sheri Tolbert received a helping hand from the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund after her husband’s passing

One day just as Sheri was about to leave work, her phone rang. It was her brother-in-law calling from her husband’s phone. He asked her if she was sitting down.

“I was thinking maybe Tony got hurt or he was in the hospital,” said Sheri. “When he told me that Tony had passed away, I just kept saying no, you’re not right, this can’t be.”  She remembers just laying her phone down and crying.

Tony had a sudden heart attack while doing maintenance work with his brother. “He was fine that morning, and gone that afternoon,” Sheri said. “It’s still devastating to me today. When you lose your soulmate, and it happens so suddenly that you don’t even get to say goodbye – that is a pain you can’t describe.” Sheri says they didn’t have life insurance – they knew it was something they should set up, they had some phone numbers they were planning to call, but they hadn’t proceeded with anything yet.

“I had very little money in the bank. I’m a breast cancer survivor, and that treatment was very expensive, so I didn’t have any savings. I had to make arrangements for Tony with the money I had set aside for my rent and car payment. I almost lost my car and my home because of it. I paid everything I had down on a cremation, and it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what I was going to do, or how I was going to make ends meet.”

Sheri’s supervisor Debbie recommended the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund.

“It helped me get back on my feet. I was so happy to be blessed by my colleagues. I want others to know the Hope Fund is there for them. If you face a tragedy or devastation, give the Hope Fund a chance,” recommends Sheri. “They want to help you. There are people who care and contribute to this fund. We never know when devastation will come into our lives, and none of us are invincible. Reach out to the Hope Fund – that’s what it’s there for.”

Click here to learn more about the HCA Healthcare Hope Fund. It’s a great example of what it means to work at HCA Healthcare, caring for not only patients, but for each other.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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