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Suzy Conway wasn’t planning on weaving the halls of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis on May 6, 2019. In fact, she had other plans that evening.

“I’d spent all day with Secret,” she explains as she strokes the mane of her 13-year-old palomino paint, “but I just felt ‘off.’ My abdomen was painful, I was tired, and it got worse throughout the day. I brushed it off because there was a Warriors’ game on that night, and I’m a huge NBA fan.”

So, the retired medical librarian tucked Secret in for the night and biked home, planning on an evening of Warrior basketball.

“At halftime, I’d gotten so much worse and a voice inside me told me I needed to go to the hospital,” Conway says. “By the time I decided to go, I was in so much pain that I had never been more appreciative to get in my car and go to a local emergency room.”

After spending some time at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department, Conway was taken to her room, where she heard a friendly greeting: “Hi Suzy, I’m Florita. I get to be your nurse today.”

“I met a different kind of warrior that night,” says Conway, eyes smiling.

In the hours that followed, Conway was warmly escorted from her patient room to the operating room for an appendectomy.

Just prior to surgery, Conway’s nurse encouraged her to take off her beloved ring for safekeeping. “When my father died, my mother gave me my dad’s ring and I haven’t taken it off for 40 years,” she says.

The nurse sensed Conway’s reluctance.

“Dorothy said, ’Suzy, I have an idea. I’m going to find a box for your ring, and have a nurse take it upstairs to Florita. When you return to your room, it will be next to your bed. I promise.’ And that’s exactly what she did,” Conway says through tears as she twists the family heirloom on her ring finger.

Before she was reunited with that ring, Conway had a hard time waking up after surgery, and remembers her recovery nurse Kristi, sitting next to her and gently reeling her back into the real world with a repetitive phrase:

“Suzy, I’m Kristi. You’re in the hospital. You’ve just had surgery, and you’re doing great.”

“She repeated it, and I felt like I was on the end of a hook being reeled back to reality. She had such a kind voice,” Conway recalls. “My mother’s brother died from appendicitis in 1915. I grew up with that story, so facing the same situation was terrifying,” she continues. “To know I was wrapped in love during that experience helped me get through.”

Shortly after Conway returned home, she knew she wanted to capture the unconventional experience she found in her hospital stay.

“I think I started the story the next night,” she says. “I didn’t want to forget the details. The nurses deserved an accurate and true description of their loving care.”

Conway penned four chapters about her experience at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center, shining light on the nurses, physicians and support staff who cared for her.

“As I began to share my story with my friends and colleagues in the medical profession, it really touched them,” she says. “I read the story to a group of hospital staff and volunteers, and I think I made most of them cry. That’s the litmus test of a good story.”

After “Celestial Troops” took flight, Conway was approached about volunteering as a member of Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center’s Patient Family Advisory Council.

“I spent my whole life as a career woman, so I guard my free time very closely,” Conway says about her volunteering. “It’s just me and this girl right here,” referring to Secret as she pats the horse’s neck, “but sitting on this committee is important work.”

While the inseparable duo still spends countless hours exploring the forest around Corvallis and meeting new friends ( both four-legged and two), Conway now tucks Secret into her stall a bit earlier some days and heads to the hospital to continue sharing “Celestial Troops.” As a member of the hospital’s Advisory Council, Conway volunteers her time to band together with patients and staff to ensure that every patient who walks through the hospital doors is also touched by the love, compassion and excellence Conway felt the night she met her celestial troops.

The following is an excerpt from Conway’s story Celestial Troops.

“Hi Suzy, I’m Florita. I get to be your nurse today.”

“Not ‘I am’ your nurse, ‘I get’ to be your nurse. This is how I met an angel the morning of my surgery. She cracked the door open and peered in at me with a beatific smile on her face and with that, I melted. 11 words and I was in tears. Why? Because I was steeling myself for surgery and Florita’s greeting completely disarmed me.”

Fall into Suzy Conway’s touching hospital experience by reading the full length version of “Celestial Troops,” at samhealth.org/SuzyC.

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