Lois Wenger Uses Technology to Improve Lives
Teacher, Trainer, Bone Marrow Donor Lois Touches Many Lives
To anyone at CVPH who is faced with learning new software or struggling to make the most of their current system, Lois Wenger, a computer support specialist in the Information Services and Support Department is a life saver. With a warm smile, quick wit and frequently, some home-baked goods, Lois can be counted upon to help staff use complex technology to benefit their patients. But for Lois, helping people is more than her job; it’s her life’s mission.
Offering help, providing hope and bringing joy to those around her is all a part of who Lois is -- a devout Christian. “I believe in Jesus and that makes the whole difference in my life. I help people because I have been truly blessed.”
A dedicated blood donor, Lois registered without hesitation to be part of a national bone marrow registry, Be The Match, when she saw a flyer at the North Country Regional Blood Donor Center. That simple act changed the life of a complete stranger: It gave a young mother battling cancer three additional months of life.
“I hoped I would be called but after I registered, I didn’t give it much thought. But two and half years later, I was selected,” she said. Becoming part of the bone marrow registry is, initially, a fairly straightforward process and includes a swab of the registrant’s cheek. The cells collected by the swab are used to determine an initial match. Once it was determined that Lois could be a match, extensive testing ensued to be sure that it was indeed a good one. That was followed by a complete physical exam and mounds of paperwork. Finally, a date was set and a series of shots to stimulate Lois’ bone marrow was scheduled. The cells from her marrow would be given to this stranger who had little in common with Lois except a common belief in God and human leukocyte antigen – the key protein in successful bone marrow transplantation. Lois’ donated cells were transplanted and her gift gave the woman precious time with her family.
Soon after learning of the woman’s death, Lois received a handwritten note from her: “Dear giver of life, My family and I prayed to God for an answer as my conditioned worsened. I worried that my daughter would grow up without me. Then I got a call that I had a ‘potential match…’
The news of the woman’s death was crushing. “I realized how emotionally intertwined I had become with a woman I had never met; whose name I never knew,” she said. The tender note of thanks from the donor and her family was delivered by the Transplantation Coordinator posthumously. It brought some comfort and a determination to stay connected. Further research and an appropriate amount of time allowed for additional contact between Lois and the recipient’s mother. “We are still touch. We’ve not met yet but I’d like to,” she said.
Lois wrote A Match For Mary, a book about her experience to increase awareness about bone marrow donation and the hope it can provide. She remains in the registry, ready to give until she ages out at 61. “I would do it again,” she said. Her commitment to bone marrow donation is stronger than ever and the registry’s Golden Swab Award is displayed proudly in her office.
Her faith continues to guide her in her life’s work. She has been a volunteer for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an internationally accredited organization that provides guide dogs for people with vision loss and service dogs to children with autism. She has welcomed three dogs into her home in the country, and each holds a special place in her heart. The training includes lots of socialization and life experiences for the puppy, who if it meets specific criteria moves on to more intensive training. One of Lois’ charges achieved a placement which is a testament to the organization’s exacting standards. Lois is a co-leader in a local 4H group, has taught in a two-room schoolhouse and has been a drivers’ education instructor. When time allows, she joins others on the CVPH Skilled Nursing Facility to sing hymns with residents.
It was her father who, in the late 1980s, encouraged Lois to pursue a career in computers and business. She has been learning and teaching ever since. “I don’t use a lot of what I learned in college though the process behind it all is very valuable.” Teaching Sunday School, homeschool and then at a vocational school before coming to CVPH as a computer support specialist, Lois says she enjoys the challenge and rewards of helping people learn. “It’s rewarding to see the light bulb go on,” she said.
At first blush, a career focused on computers isn’t easily connected to helping humanity. Unless you are Lois. “There may be computer jobs that do not benefit humanity but in health care, we do.”