Heartbeats & Hope – An Employee Gives Back

Dona Ejimofor

It happens, on average, up to three times a night: one in a stack of blue and green fever charts on Dona Ejimofor’s computer screen goes red.

“That’s when you get concerned,” Dona says, about the red band that pops up on the patient telemetry screens she watches, and which indicate a patient in distress. “That’s when you call the nurses.”

Night is a risky time for the people Dona, a monitor technician, watches on the 5th floor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital. Many of them are heart and COPD patients, life-long smokers who have difficulty breathing even when they’re awake, or patients worn down from a history of heart disease. At night the body relaxes, breathing slows, and the pulse can drop—sometimes dangerously low.

All night long, Dona keeps watch. She is the first line of defense in a tightly-knit night shift care team that includes nurses, nurse assistants, doctors, respiratory therapists, and others who spring into action when Dona’s patient monitoring screen flashes red.

“Things are quiet here at night, but things can change real quick,” Dona says. “In a heartbeat, everyone is on alert. They’ll do anything. They’re top-notch.”

Her “family,” as she likens her MLKCH colleagues, is one of the reasons why Dona wears a heart-shaped badge above her employee name-card, a visual indication of her status as a supporter of the MLKCH Gives campaign, our annual staff giving campaign.

A record-breaking 416 MLKCH staff wear that badge this year—the most ever to participate in the four-year history of the campaign, which also broke records with more than $113,000 raised.

The night shift played an especially enthusiastic role in this campaign—raising more than $5,000 in one night alone. First-floor emergency room staff, 5th-floor telemetry nurses, environmental services workers in the basement, maternity staff on the 2nd floor all swarmed the cookie cart that MLK Community Health Foundation staff pushed during two rounds of nighttime fundraising, grabbing campaign sign-up forms as well as chocolate chip cookies.

“It shows we care about where we work, about our community, the people we serve,” says Dona. “This is a beautiful new hospital. I can see the investment. We want to keep it looking good.”

MLKCH Gives Wall of Hearts

This year’s campaign theme, “Hope from the Heart,” might have a particular appeal to Dona, whose job it is to monitor the green line zig-zagging on her computer screen that indicates a patient’s heart rate.

Since the MLKCH Gives campaign began in 2015 (before the hospital had even opened its doors) staff have contributed more than $300,000 in support of the hospital’s general fund. And more staff than ever before participated in this year’s campaign: 38% of all MLKCH employees.

“It’s a testament to the unique culture of MLKCH,” said foundation Development Manager Priscilla Valencia who steered the campaign with the help of the 12 members of the MLKCH Gives Leadership team. “From our environmental services workers, to our physicians, to our summer interns, MLKCH Gives connects the people who work at MLKCH with the hospital’s mission. It creates a shared sense of pride in the hospital and the work being done for patients in South Los Angeles.”

For Dona, whose nighttime vigil keeps her patients on the 5th floor safe, the campaign is about that and something more.

“It’s about belief,” she says. “I am from this community and I believe in this community. Helping this hospital is one way to show that.”