HCA Healthcare colleagues share stories of PRIDE

HCA Healthcare colleagues, family and friends celebrating PRIDE Month in Denver.
On Sunday, June 26 HCA Healthcare affiliate HealthONE supported the 2022 Denver PRIDE Parade, which is a part of PrideFest. Members of our LGBTQ+ Colleague Network, family and friends were proud to march and represent HealthONE in the parade, which spanned 14 blocks and ended at the Colorado Capitol.

Each June, HCA Healthcare celebrates PRIDE Month alongside our LGBTQ+ colleagues, patients and community. This month, we are amplifying the voices of our LGBTQ+ community and allies by sharing stories about what family means to them.

We believe that exceptional healthcare is built on a foundation of inclusion, compassion and respect for our patients and for each other. We embrace the unique value of each individual – and that includes taking pride in the diversity of our patients’ and colleagues’ family compositions. To celebrate families that come in all shapes and sizes, we asked our HCA Healthcare LGBTQ+ community what they take pride in every day. Read their first-hand accounts below…

Jaime’s story

Jaime Bradbury, Senior EHR Training Developer
HCA Healthcare Ambulatory Services Division (Nashville, Tennessee)

Jaime Bradbury and her wife, Jessica, on their wedding day.
HCA Healthcare colleague Jaime Bradbury (right) and her wife, Jessica (left). Photo courtesy of Madi Flournoy Photography.

To me, family is a group of people who you know accepts you for you. You feel comfortable, safe, special, that you matter and that your voice matters. They are the ones who stand by you through thick and thin. They are your entire support system.

After accepting myself as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I wondered if I would still have that support system. I thought telling my family and friends that I had fallen in love with a woman would be one of the hardest things I ever had to do. And it was – but the outpouring of love and support I received was overwhelming. Of course, there were questions and it took some time for a few of my family members and friends to understand.

My dad (who is extremely analytical, by the way) likes to tell the story of when it “made sense” to him. He asked me, “Jaime, how do you decide if you’re in love with a man or a woman?” and I replied, “Dad, I fell in love with a person.” And it was like a whole new, colorful world opened up for him – not just the black and white one he had lived in for 55 years. It is just as simple as that. I fell in love with a person. And I am PROUD to love her. And I was even more proud to watch my wife dance with my dad at our wedding.

Our next adventure is the journey to becoming moms. I often wondered, after falling in love with a woman, if I would ever be able to have the family I had always dreamt of. My biggest goal in life is to be a mom and have a family of my own, but I did not know what that would look like for my wife and me.

What I have found is not only do I have support from my immediate family, extended family and friends who have become my chosen family, but I also have support from my HCA Healthcare family.

It is amazing to be able to say that I work for an organization that is helping make both my work and personal dreams come true. The added benefits for families like mine have been a blessing for my wife and me. We are currently working with Progyny to create our family, and I am beyond proud to be a part of this organization.

Jaime and her wife, Jessica, holding up a book that reads "Mommy, Mama, and Me."
HCA Healthcare colleague Jaime Bradbury and her wife, Jessica, are excited to begin building their family through HCA Healthcare’s partnership with Progyny. a leading fertility benefits solution. Photo courtesy of Madi Flournoy Photography.

My journey to being proud was rocky and rough at times. The toll it took on my body physically and mentally was difficult to overcome. I realize I am one of the lucky ones to have a support system because not everyone does. Love your people. Love each other. In the words of Maya Angelou, “try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”

Did you know? HCA Healthcare has partnered with Progyny, a leading fertility benefits solution, to provide an inclusive family building benefit for unique paths to parenthood. Full-time and part-time colleagues and their covered spouses/domestic partners enrolled in the Essential, Well Care, Out-of-Area and Prime medical plans have access to comprehensive treatment coverage, personalized guidance and access to premier specialists. Colleagues pay a percentage of the cost of services depending on the benefits plan.

Shellie’s story

Shellie Meeks, Manager of Member Education and Communication
HealthTrust (Brentwood, Tennessee)

Shellie giving a hug to a friend at a PRIDE Festival.
HCA Healthcare colleague Shellie Meeks giving a “free mom hug” to friend, Dawson, at the Nashville PRIDE Festival.

I’m a proud “Mama Bear” to four beautiful and accomplished sons, and to me, the LGBTQ+ community and PRIDE mean a safe harbor. They mean a judgment-free zone where I can connect with other mothers who have faced what I have faced and more.

I celebrate PRIDE and show up as an advocate, as a “Mama Bear” and by giving “Free Mom Hugs” at PRIDE every year. Why? Because I’ve found there is a whole community of other moms that have been on a similar journey. The “Mama Bears” were formed by other moms and provide a “safe space” where we can tell our stories about proms, weddings, births and all of the things that make us moms proud. We are moms trying to make the world a kinder, safer, more loving place for all LGBTQ+ people to live. I show up because there are a lot of humans out there that need a hug or a listening ear. I’ve had many embraces last longer than they should have at the PRIDE parade or at my church booth, just because some human needed a hug that desperately.

For those of you who are parents to more than one offspring, you can agree that even though your children might come from the same gene pool, you begin to notice differences between personalities, differences in food preferences, hobbies and interests as your children grow. Even though all of my children were being raised in the same household, I began to notice differences in one of my three biological sons at a very young age. I spoke to my pediatrician about it, who was a mother herself. She helped answer my questions and helped me to understand that my son is born to be exactly who he is.

Shellie giving a hug to her chosen son in a kitchen.
HCA Healthcare colleague Shellie Meeks at home with her chosen son, Jamin.

For the love of my sons, I educated myself on a topic I discovered I actually knew very little about – sexual orientation and LGBTQ+ identity. In the process of growing myself, opening my mind, and watching my own sons grow, I’ve gained another son (that I didn’t give birth to).  He chose me as his mom after he came out and has been a huge asset to our family, blessing us all in more ways than I can count. I am honored to be his “chosen mom” and my sons are thrilled to be his “chosen” brothers. I love him every bit as much as the ones I gave birth to.

At the end of the day, I love my kids like any other mom. I’ve learned that just like there is a spectrum of intelligence, there is a spectrum of identity, there is a spectrum of sexuality, and being on the spectrum of LGBTQ+ is not a choice – it’s on the spectrum of being human.

Kadesha’s story

Kadesha Evans, Executive Director of Behavioral Health
HCA Florida West Hospital (Pensacola, Florida)

Kadesha, spouse Meg and son laughing on the beach with their dog.
HCA Healthcare colleague Kadesha Evans (left) with son, Zeke, and spouse Meg (right).

To me, being proud means showing up as my authentic self everywhere I go and creating safe spaces for others to do the same. My family consists of myself, my spouse Meg, our son Zeke, and our pittie named Dinosaur. We moved to Pensacola from Atlanta this past March so that I could rejoin the HCA Healthcare family.

I came out as Queer in 2014 when I started dating my now spouse. We met playing women’s football for the Pittsburgh Passion. Coming out was definitely a brave moment, because I had never talked to anyone about my sexual orientation prior to my spouse, but knew pretty much my whole life I wasn’t straight. I was definitely one of the lucky ones because my parents and sisters were all very supportive from the beginning of our relationship.

We got engaged in 2015 while living in Pittsburgh, and shortly afterward Meg received a job offer that relocated us to Georgia. Surrounded by 50 of our closest friends and family, we were married in 2016 in the north Georgia mountains.

Kadesha holding a baby with her spouse.
HCA Healthcare colleague Kadesha Evans (left) and spouse Meg (right) with son Zeke.

My spouse and I have stayed very intentional in our relationship because it’s so important to us to celebrate our differences as individuals. Just because we’re married and know one another so deeply, it’s still always been at the forefront of our relationship to learn and grow as a couple, but also as individuals. And to me, that’s part of the beauty in relationships that give folks the freedom to be their authentic self, in all ways, despite societal norms.

Those intentions have stayed pretty consistent and now greatly impact the ways in which we parent our son, Zeke. We strive to model kindness, acceptance and empathy. As a result, he genuinely is one of the sweetest kids I know. Everyone he meets comments on his joy for life and kind and empathetic nature, which is one of the best compliments a parent could receive.

My spouse and I recognize that things won’t always be easy, but we know that we have the support of friends and family to continue fighting the good fight and advocating so that others can also be free to be their authentic selves. To our little family, that’s what celebrating Pride is all about.

Advancing health equality

Dominion Hospital, one of HCA Healthcare’s affiliated freestanding behavioral health hospitals in Falls Church, Virginia, has offered hope and help to individuals of all ages for five decades. With LGBTQ+ adults more than 2x likely to experience a behavioral health condition, Dominion strives each day to close the gap to ensure equitable behavioral healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients and their families.

Dominion has deployed several actions including SAFE Zone trainings, which are opportunities to learn about LGBTQ+ identities, gender and sexuality, and examine prejudice, assumptions, and privilege. The hospital has also instituted staff education events, community continuing education events, policy and practice changes, and other efforts toward being a visible ally to the LGBTQ+ community.

Dominion also annually participates in the Human Rights Campaign’s Hospital Equality Index, the national LGBTQ+ benchmarking tool that evaluates healthcare facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. Their participation allows them to use their results as a needs assessment and engage in follow up actions based on identified needs.

“No one facing health concerns should also have to worry about receiving inequitable or substandard care because of their LGBTQ+ status. Dominion Hospital is proud to participate in the Healthcare Equality Index to identify possible gaps as a part of our continued journey to toward equitable, knowledgeable, sensitive, and welcoming healthcare, free from discrimination.”

Ben Brown, ChIEf executive officer, Dominion Hospital

Thank you for reading as we celebrate PRIDE Month and those who make an impact.

Meet the Executive Sponsor of our LGBTQ+ Colleague Network on HCA Healthcare Today.

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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