Meet our OR Clinical Advisor
By Christie Roy
It is common for patients preparing to have weight loss surgery to feel nervous about the procedure, their post-surgical care, and their results. Here in the Weight Loss Surgery Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, we hope those nerves will subside as you get to know Heidee Albano, RN, BSN, CNOR, our Operating Room Clinical Advisor.
Heidee’s role includes ensuring that she and her staff provide the safest and highest quality care to all bariatric surgery patients. That means making certain that everyone is up-to-date with their clinical knowledge of treatment and medical equipment, as well as the latest trends in medical technology.
“We have high quality and care standards here at BIDMC, and this is a very team-oriented environment,” Heidee says. “We know we all have to work together and bring our ‘A’ game every day.”
Heidee has worked at BIDMC for 26 years, and started the Weight Loss Surgery program with Dr. Daniel Jones in 2002. At that time, she was a staff nurse and found immediate enjoyment in caring for bariatric patients.
“They are the most enthusiastic group of patients,” Heidee says. “For them, losing weight is not an easy feat, and surgery is the best option for them to get healthy. It is very rewarding to see them lose weight, and gain back their self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Heidee incorporated a fun method of motivation for some of those patients along the way.
“I always looked forward to talking with my patients in the holding area and would pose a challenge to them,” she says. “I would ask what their weight loss goal was — they would usually say between 80 and 150 pounds. Then I would make a deal with a handshake by saying, ‘I weigh 97 pounds and I challenge you to lose the whole of me!’ They would give me that startled look and would say, ‘you have got to be kidding me.’ Then we would have the biggest laugh ever!”
Many of those patients have lived up to her challenge.
“I try to go to the weight loss reunions and I enjoy listening to their testimonials on how the surgery changed their lives,” Heidee proudly says of her patients. “I get a kick looking at those who I had deals with about losing the ‘whole of me and more,’ because they actually did!”
Heidee’s big heart shines through in all of her endeavors, whether caring for patients at BIDMC or caring for others she has never met. Back in 2005, she led fundraising efforts to help fellow nurses affected by Hurricane Katrina. Late last year, after Typhoon Haiyan hit her home country of the Phillippines, Heidee collected money and, with the help of friends involved in medical missions, medical equipment and supplies. She even asked her colleagues to save all unused OR supplies.
“Fortunately my family in the Phillippines was not directly affected,” Heidee explains. “But I could not just sit and do nothing. I was able to send money and several boxes of equipment and supplies already, and I have more.”
Heidee was also able to help a family in Haiti through her unofficial role as the “swear police” at work.
“I charge a quarter for every swear!” she says with a laugh. “A few years ago I told everyone, if they could in good faith, to add some money to the jar so we could help this boy and his family in Haiti.”
Heidee had read about the little boy, Dumanel Luxama, in the Boston Globe; he was suffering from a rare birth defect — a hole in the skull that allowed his growing brain to bulge outward and into a lump between his eyes. His family’s livelihood depended on farming but, in order to pay for bus tickets to take his son to a medical mission for treatment, the father sold their only possessions, two cows.
“The surgeon at the mission was from Boston Children’s Hospital, and he told the family that he wouldn’t be able to operate unless they came to Boston, but he would do the surgery for free,” Heidee explains. “A charity group paid for him and his dad to travel to Boston but while they were here, their farmland in Haiti was destroyed by a hurricane, everything was washed out. I read about one family donating money to help them buy a new cow, so I decided that we could too. With the money we raised here, we were able to buy the family a new bull — a working cow for their fields — and helped build them more sturdy shelter.”
Heidee knows that she is lucky to be in a position to help others — whether here at BIDMC or thousands of miles away — and believes it is that good fortune that enables her to do what she does.
“My parents were very generous and I was brought up well, but I was fortunate to get a good education and a good job,” she says. “I’m not happy if I just enjoy what I have, knowing that so many others are suffering. I hope I can motivate people to be more giving and generous. For me, it is better to give than to receive.”
Posted April 2014