Served: Larry the Red Coat

“I’m going to wear a tuxedo on my last day.”  Larry had been saying this for a few months now when we would talk about his upcoming retirement.  I woke up with curious anticipation this past Friday, knowing that it was Larry’s last day.  As I entered the hospital building we work in, I peered over the railing from my second floor path and sure enough, there was Larry at the main entrance, donning his tuxedo.

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I have worked with Larry for nearly three years at Cleveland Clinic.  He holds my all time favorite job – Red Coat. Red Coats are men and women who wear red suit jackets and are there for the sole purpose of helping.  They help patients into the building, escort them to appointments, give directions, get wheelchairs for those who are struggling and anything else you can possibly imagine.  Patients and employees alike know that if you need something at Cleveland Clinic, find a Red Coat.

For the three years I have known him, Larry has greeted me with a smile every morning as I arrive and throughout the day I  speed past him to and from meetings.  For three years, I have also seen him greet and escort patients with the most gentle and compassionate demeanor.  All.  Day. Long.  There has never been a moment where I did not see that man smile.

I asked him what memories he will take with him to his retirement adventures in Las Vegas and he teared up immediately.  Over the years, he had formed a bond with a patient and his wife who were coming from another state for care. He hadn’t seen them in a while and one day, the wife showed up to Cleveland Clinic without her husband.  She had traveled from out of state just to find Larry and tell him that her husband had passed away and to say thank you for all he had done for her husband in those last years and months.

“It’s all about empathy,” he said as we said our final goodbyes.  “Can you imagine if everyone went through this world with just a little more empathy?”

Larry, some tuxedo cupcakes for you on your last day in honor of the thousands of patients whose pain you eased, and in gratitude for making my days a little better.

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