Pictured (l-r) is Jack Murphy with Carol Wetherbee, RN, Home Based Primary Care Coordinator, and Linda Schwarzmann, LCSW, of the Home Based Primary Team.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Survivor of four different types of cancer and now undergoing chemotherapy, Navy Veteran John Murphy still finds time to work at VA New York Harbor Healthcare System. Serving as a volunteer making phone calls to check up on the health of fellow Veterans, Murphy, a long term smoker who suffers from emphysema, is a natural after decades of working the phone as a salesman of sports advertising for radio and TV. His specialty was football and baseball sales.
Murphy comes in once a week to assist the Home Based Primary Care program, touching base with the patients, most of whom are elderly and, many, homebound. Although he says chemotherapy weakens him and has discouraged him from the golf course this summer, he certainly hasn't lost his gift of gab.
Armed only with a few background notes about the patient's military service given to him by Carol Wetherbee, RN, Home Based Primary Care Coordinator, or by one of the team's social workers, Murphy makes the calls. Often he speaks with the Veteran's wife first. "She's the one who answers the phone. So, I talk with her about things like how hard it's been," he said.
With Veterans, Murphy is good at finding an insider's connection. He jokes with a Marine saying, "I wanted to join the Marines, but my scores were too high, so I joined the Navy." That type of joshing gets a conversation going and then along with asking how the patient is doing, Murphy is able to glean if the patient is having any problems, and reports back any issues to Wetherbee or the nurse practitioner to follow up.
A gentle sense of humor is one of Murphy's greatest strengths. To a Veteran grumbling about spending all day at VA, he asked "Why are you so much in a hurry, are you double parked?"
"He's a gem," said Wetherbee. "It really means a lot to many of our patients to get a call from another Veteran who enjoys chatting with them."