Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 22, 2013

Teen gives up Saturdays to help emergency room

Stephen Coble cleans, stocks rooms and comforts patients.

Kokomo — [Editor’s note: In honor of National Volunteer Week, the Kokomo Tribune is recognizing volunteers who make a difference in their community.]

He’s a 17-year-old who gives up his Saturdays to clean and stock hospital rooms and comfort emergency room patients with blankets and conversation.

Most teens aren’t even allowed in the emergency room to volunteer.

Stephen Coble is an exception to the rule.

Nurse Sue Giddens said Coble is wise beyond his years. That maturity erased any doubts in her mind that he could do the job.

“He had to prove that he could handle the rigors of an emergency room,” she said. “He has shown the maturity and integrity to act in this complicated and serious setting.”

So in the last two years, Coble has logged 352 volunteer hours in the Community Howard Regional Health emergency room.

He’s there just about every Saturday during the school year.

That amazes Giddens.

“He gives up time that most kids would be out partying,” she said.

And his work isn’t glamorous. He transports patients to procedures and cleans and stocks hospital rooms.

Cleaning the rooms is one of his biggest jobs, Giddens said. And Coble does it with pride. She said he won’t hesitate to let the nurses know there’s a room he doesn’t think is clean enough, and he goes in and fixes the problem.

“And that’s not a real nice task all of the time,” she said.

Coble said he really doesn’t mind. He admitted that it isn’t his favorite part, though. Interacting with patients and their families is.

Coble tends to their needs by bringing them food when they’re hungry and blankets when they’re cold. And sometimes, when they don’t have any visitors, he’ll drop in and chat with them.

“Actually getting to know them and making their stay more comfortable, that’s what really makes volunteering worth it,” he said. “They’re already uncomfortable and at their low point.”

Coble brushed off the notion that he was in any way special for being one of the only teens allowed in the emergency room to work.

In fact, he said, the ER could use a few more eager, passionate teens to help out.

“This is where we see a lot of people who need the most attention,” he said.

Coble said what he sees is graphic sometimes, but he wouldn’t trade his job at the hospital for anything.

It has actually inspired him to pursue a degree in nursing once he finishes high school — though he is only a sophomore now.

Some day he wants to be able to do more than watch the patients suffer.

“The hardest thing now is being limited in how involved I can get,” he said. “There are certain things I can’t do.”

Coble said he wants to be part of the solution.

Giddens has no doubt he will make a great nurse.

“He would be a true asset to any medical field,” she said. “He’s always willing to help and go above and beyond. There’s nothing he’s not willing to do.”

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