Floyd Medical Center Straightforward

Social Work

Melissa Washington had eaten dinner with her family. All the gifts had been opened. As the Washingtons basked in the afterglow of a Christmas well spent, Melissa slipped away to visit a patient who had grown near and dear to her. Mr. Charlie, she knew, was all alone.

Mr. Charlie has 14 children, but life circumstances had distanced him from all of them. He had not had any contact with his family in 20 years, and this Christmas would be no different. On this, likely his last Christmas, he would be alone.

Melissa, a social worker with Heyman HospiceCare, was determined that her patient would not spend this last Christmas by himself. On this special visit, the conversation turned to his family and how he had enjoyed watching his children, six of them adopted, grow into capable adults. Now, sadly, Mr. Charlie had lost touch with them. He thought one child might live in West Virginia. He had heard another lived in Louisiana. Another, he thought, lived in Montana and still another in Mississippi. He even had a son in Australia.

Their conversation spawned an idea. The proliferation of social media and the technological wizardry of search engines, suddenly gave new meaning to the title “social worker.” Melissa theorized that Mr. Charlie’s children might be easier to find than he thought. With his permission, Melissa opened her computer and began her search. She first tried Facebook, but the number of options were too generic to pare down. She next went to Google.

Even Melissa was amazed at what the search engine brought to her screen. She not only found a woman matching the name of Mr. Charlie’s oldest daughter in West Virginia, Mr. Charlie was listed as a related name. She also discovered a newspaper article about his daughter and her work.

With her patient’s permission, Melissa called the number, telling Mr. Charlie that she and he were going to pray and trust God that this woman was his daughter. A man answered the phone, and after a few specific questions, Melissa knew her search had been successful. The gentleman on the line was Mr. Charlie’s son-in-law.

Mr. Charlie’s smile was as big as Melissa had ever seen. She asked the man if his wife would be willing to talk to her dad. She was, and for the next couple of hours Melissa – and Mr. Charlie – experienced a Christmas miracle.

The smile never left Mr. Charlie’s face as he listened to updates on his children and the grandchildren and great grandchildren he had never known. It was, Melissa said, a true Kodak moment. Mr. Charlie’s daughter asked if she could call him back and told him she would connect him to his other children.

As Christmas day faded away, Melissa’s gift continued to bring returns. Mr. Charlie’s son in Australia called as did his daughters in Mississippi and Louisiana. A few days after Christmas, Mr. Charlie’s Mississippi daughter came to visit him in person. Another daughter has offered to have him come and live with her. Unfortunately, Mr. Charlie’s declining health may not allow that, but this reconciled family is staying in touch through the technology that reconnected them. Mr. Charlie now has a Facebook account, and the family uses the social media platform to communicate, with the added bonus of being able to share photos of his sons, daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Melissa spent about five hours with Mr. Charlie Christmas day. As she prepared to leave, a humble Mr. Charlie thanked her and lamented that he didn’t have a gift for her. Melissa told him his gift was the wisdom and knowledge he had shared as she listened to him reconnect with his family.

That, she said, was the most wonderful gift she received that Christmas.