"At this juncture in my life, I can't be a doctor, and I can't be a nurse, but I discovered I can be in the environment I so love," says Spikings. A UCLA staff member for nearly three decades, she is project manager for UCLA Alumni Travel. Three years ago, she began to volunteer as a Eucharistic minister in the medical center's Spiritual Care Department, bringing communion to and visiting with Catholic patients. Noting Spikings' tremendous passion for helping others, the volunteer director urged her to offer her services in an additional area that really needed her: the emergency room.
So, Spikings now serves as a volunteer patient liaison in the ER every Friday afternoon for four hours. "But I could do it 24 hours a day, I love it so much," she says.
In the unpredictable, chaotic world of the ER, Spikings offers a steady hand to traumatized patients and their anxious families. "I'm there to hold their hands," she says, "to comfort them, bring them a warm blanket and a smile - to tell them everything's going to be okay."
Sometimes her task is as straightforward as taking care of a child who otherwise might be frantic while his parents undergo emergency medical treatment. Her responsibilities can also extend to the very complex: One grateful friend of a patient called her a "beacon of stability" when she tracked down the family of the patient, who had no identification with him; the people who brought him in spoke only Japanese.
"The challenge is unbelievable," she says. "Mentally, it's exhausting. But for the gift I offer, I get it back a hundred times."
Spikings was also there for a 90-pound woman in the final stages of cancer. "She held on to me, calling me her angel. I deem these people my angels because of what they give to me. It helps me put my whole life in perspective."
To find out how to become a hospital volunteer, call UCLA Medical Center, 800-825-2631 or Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center, 310-319-4614.