JOURDANTON, Texas – For more than a year at Methodist Hospital South in Jourdanton, a frontline worker has left a major impact on COVID-19 patients.
It may not be part of his job description, but Luis Gómez, a housekeeper and patient advocate, is going above and beyond to bring joy, hope and even gifts to those who face one of their toughest battles.
“As I clean the rooms, I talk to patients and add a little bit more joy,” Gómez said. “I try to make them smile (and) feel comfortable.”
Gómez does that by sharing small gifts he keeps hidden in his pockets. The items reflect his faith and love for all, but especially the sick.
Gómez has been employed at Methodist Hospital South for four years. He buys prayer cards, paper clips, word search books or little keychains with his own money. Sharing the small gifts is his way of connecting and loving those around him. He has witnessed how the small gestures can bring happiness and meaning to his friends at the hospital.
“I hand out little things (like word searches) or stuff like that to, you know, get their minds out of the hospital (for) a little bit.”
He wants to help them check-out, mentally, at least. During the pandemic he’s done just that for COVID-19 patients, including Maureen Stinson.
“During Christmas I got all the patients presents and a little Christmas tree, bear, little things, cards,” Gómez said. “When she saw the bear, she was super excited.”
The two developed a close friendship through visits and prayer.
“I told her, I know you can’t have Christmas with family, but I’m bringing Christmas to you,” Gómez said. “She was full of life in there. So, I was happy to see that and even when she was leaving, she said bye, eagerly.”
By January, Stinson had recovered from the virus and was transferred back to a nursing home. Gómez last saw Stinson when she was being put in ambulance.
“She told me, ‘I wrote you a letter,’ and I thought she left it in the room because I’m the one who was going to go clean the room. I never found it, so I just left it at that,” Gómez said.
The letter had ended up in a box, later to be discovered by Stinson’s daughter, Melissa Zeinert.
“(The letter) was folded up. I opened it and it was in my mom’s handwriting. (In the letter) she’s thanking a Luis for a stuffed animal,” Zeinert recalled.
The letter read:
Thank you for this pretty ornament. I will treasure it always. You are extremely thoughtful. I love my little bear. I’m going to take good care of it. I love him. I’m so glad we met. My writing is not good because of my hand that I hurt.
Thank you again,
Stinson had unfortunately passed away in February due to complications from COVID-19.
“The damage had really been done to her heart and lungs,” Zeinert said.
Zeinert and her brother Todd were so touched by Gómez’s care for their mother that they wanted to personally deliver the letter. Gómez was shocked to receive the letter months later and have the chance to meet his friend’s children.
“They wanted me to keep the original letter, and they told me it probably was the last thing she ever wrote,” Gómez said. “We started talking and, you know, piecing together the things that Stinson and I talked about. It was real emotional.”
Gómez plans to preserve the letter at home as it’s brought back beautiful memories and meaning to what he does. “I think it’s just a sign of God telling me this is where I belong,” Gómez said. “This is where I’m needed.”
For the family, the letter and encounter with Gómez has helped find closure and peace during a difficult time.
“It’s still emotional, of course,” Zeinert said. “This opportunity to reach out to him and get to know him has been wonderful. So yes, it has helped us with some closure.”
Gómez was later able to attend Stinson’s memorial service as the family celebrated her life a few weeks ago. The family said they are also so thankful for the love and care their mother received during her stay at Methodist Hospital South.
Stinson’s children and Gómez have developed a friendship and plan to stay in touch to honor their mother.