When Iris Fetgatter and Kathy Carter first met Kasia Wardynski, it was within the walls of Mary Washington Hospital, during polite and professional conversation.
Over the years, Wardynski, director of development at Mary Washington Healthcare, had reached beyond the office walls and had become one of many supporting Fetgatter and Carter during key moments in their health and lives.
Fetgatter, 70 of Spotsylvania County, first met Wardynski when she asked about donating to Mary Washington Hospital. She jokingly said she wanted to donate in order to get her name on a plaque in the atrium wall.
She ended up getting a friendship in the bargain.
Fetgatter and Wardynski kept in touch, making calls to one another weeks before Fetgatter’s health emergency.
Wardynski connected with Fetgatter through Fetgatter’s vivid stories of her life and her sharp personality.
“She is a ball of fire,” Wardynski said.
Fetgatter, who previously had issues with her heart, noticed in October she would feel dizzy standing up.
The doctor recommended a heart monitor to find what may be causing the dizziness.
However, the issue persisted to the point where Fetgatter, driving home one day, realized she needed to go to the emergency room.
She stopped by a Chick-fil-A on Plank Road, where a manager and employee called an ambulance and made sure she could rest before the ambulance came. She said she fought to stay conscious.
As was their routine, Wardynski called Fetgatter, not knowing she was in the emergency room until Fetgatter told her.
Wardynski stood by Fetgatter’s side soon after and visited her frequently, through Fetgatter’s hospital stay and rehabilitation at Carriage Hill. Fetgatter had had syncope, a temporary loss of consciousness due to low blood pressure. The blood pressure issues also caused her muscles, as Fetgatter described it, to “literally stop working.”
Once Fetgatter was able to return home, Wardynski offered to organize a meal train so Fetgatter would have meals as she recovered.
“She doesn’t have to do the nice things she’s doing,” Fetgatter said.
Fetgatter, who had been a volunteer hospital chaplain and a retired federal employee, said she wanted to appreciate people who wanted to make a difference and support people who are ill, when society may ignore the ill or elderly instead.
“They did the honorable,” Fetgatter said about Wardynski and the Chick-fil-A manager and employee. “In their way it was an act of love, a way to honor someone. I couldn’t turn back after everything I had seen and been trained to do.”
A FRIENDLY FACE
Wardynski is not on the medical side of the hospital, yet in many ways Fetgatter and Carter credit her as playing an integral role in their recoveries.
Carter first met Wardynski a few years ago, when her mother was released from Mary Washington Hospital for issues related to diabetes.
Carter was interested in giving feedback about her experience. When she saw Wardynski walk through the atrium, she knew she had found someone professional and approachable. She even remembered the pearls Wardynski would wear around her neck, her white blouse and black skirt.
“She had this look about her,” Carter said. “[It was] professional, caring.”
Wardynski was not able to answer Carter’s question but directed her to someone who could, and she gave Carter her contact information so she could let Wardynski know if she got the answers she needed.
A few years later, Wardynski received a letter from a patient who had received treatment at Mary Washington Healthcare for breast cancer. Wardynski wondered why she had received the letter when it addressed the medical doctors at the Department of Radiation Oncology.
Carter originally meant to send it to the department itself, but realized that she had wanted to thank all parts of the hospital for her treatment. She remembered Wardynski and still had her contact information.
Seeing Carter as the writer, Wardynski realized later it was the same woman she had spoken with at the atrium years back.
Wardynski said the letter was “beautifully written,” and was astonished that Carter, whose story is currently a video testimony on Mary Washington Healthcare’s website, had remembered her after those years. Wardynski contacted her, and they became fast friends.
“If I hadn’t walked into the atrium at that precise moment, I would not have met her and developed this wonderful friendship,” Wardynski said.
Like Fetgatter, Carter and Wardynski keep in touch, speaking over the phone. Carter, who has had additional health concerns after the cancer, considers Wardynski a friend and emotional support.
“Kasia had been my confidant,” Carter said. “Not a doctor per se. [I] will call her, and if I say I’m doing OK, she’ll say you’re not doing OK, what’s going on? I end up telling her the entire story.”
When Carter had to stay in the emergency room recently, Wardynski, after finding out, walked from her office to the hospital to visit her.
Wardynski is also involved in several fundraisers with Mary Washington Healthcare that raises funds for patient care and medical research.
Carter took part in The Power of Pink Breast Cancer Walk, organized by Mary Washington Healthcare to raise funds for breast cancer research.
Carter said Wardynski, despite organizing and making preparations for the march, met her during the march. She not only wanted to meet Carter’s sisters, cousins and friends, but went through the march and introduced herself to strangers.
“Who can find anyone who’s as approachable as her?” Carter said.
Wardynski’s energy extends to her position. She is director of development both at Mary Washington Hospital and Stafford Hospital, saying she wears two different hats. She helps direct and organize fundraising events and supervises giving programs.
Wardynski has worked at Mary Washington Healthcare for 9 years. Majoring in sociology, she has felt the pull to help people. Forming close friendships and providing support for them has been an unexpected gift.
“If I know that somebody’s at one of our hospitals, I very much enjoy going to visit,” Wardynski said, “[and] be a shoulder to lean on.”