HCA Johnston-Willis Hospital gift shop volunteer Wayne McGhee (photo by Chet Strange).
It seems almost everybody at HCA Johnston-Willis Hospital knows the name Wayne McGhee, and that he knows all of theirs, too.
The sweet, smiling and energetic gift shop volunteer has won the hearts of hospital employees, doctors, patients and their families in his five years of service.
“Wayne touches the lives of all those he meets,” says Dr. Nicole Kelleher, who nominated McGhee for a Special Honor for his volunteer work in our Top Doctors survey. “He currently has over 6,500 volunteer hours, and I can’t imagine our gift shop without his friendliness and smiling face.”
The 71-year-old Richmond native says he got his energy and enthusiasm from his mother, who taught him that life was a lot better if you smiled about it.
“We all have problems, we all have heartaches, but I get around here and the people have worse troubles than I do,” McGhee says. “If I can smile and make them feel better, it makes me feel better.”
The gift shop is located between the maternity ward and the cancer center, so McGhee often talks with stressed-out people whose loved ones have just received bad news, and that can be difficult, he says. However, his positive attitude is infectious and spreads from the families to the patients themselves.
The wives who visit the cancer center and talk with him often later bring their husbands by to introduce them, McGhee says. Once, a husband told McGhee, “Thank you for listening to my wife.”
“She just needed someone to vent to,” McGhee responded. “We all need that sometimes.”
The hospital staff loves McGhee. His boss calls him her “hidden treasure.”
“Wayne is the whole gift shop,” says Maria Gilmore, manager of volunteers at CJW Medical Center. “He is the heart of the operation, and I don’t know what I would do without him.”
McGhee is scheduled to work twice a week, Gilmore says, but he ends up working about 30 hours a week, including weekends and holidays. Whether he’s decorating Christmas trees or hanging hearts for Valentine’s Day, McGhee is showing no sign or intention of slowing down any time soon.
“I’m retired but I wasn’t going to just sit at home,” McGhee says. “Some days I feel my age, but I never act it,” he adds, laughing.
McGhee has found a family at the hospital, and his presence at the gift shop is practically a trademark for Johnston-Willis.
“I’m a very blessed person,” McGhee says. “Why not smile and pass it on?”