National Hospital Week is this week. Locally, at Methodist Hospital | South, the behind-the-scenes frontline workers who put their lives at risk every day took it to a whole new level this past year. Methodist Hospital | South, Housekeeper Luis Gomez, understands just how essential his job is to create a safe and clean environment for patients to heal, but he brought a special level of care especially during COVID-19.
“I was never once scared of the virus. I was actually one of the first to volunteer to go into [COVID] patient rooms,” said Gomez. At one point, a chaplain asked why he wasn’t afraid to go in. “I told him I just put on the armor of God and whatever happens, happens. If I got the virus and died, it was because God said it was my time. So, I went into their rooms and treated them like any other patient I’ve interacted with before.”
A Poteet native, Gomez has always been a people person. Prior to working at Methodist Hospital | South, he volunteered at the Poteet Nursing Home for four years. He recalls patients wanting to be around him because of his loud voice, especially during bingo, and the extra attention he gave to them when they felt lonely or scared.
“That’s when I began to better understand people, especially patients. Putting a smile on their face is my No. 1 priority. If I can walk into a room and make someone smile, I’ve done my job,” said Gomez.
Becoming a housekeeper at the hospital was God’s calling for Gomez, especially after hitting rock bottom 10 years ago. Working most of his life in construction, he found himself without a job and without disability following a work injury. However, he didn’t let life keep him down. Two surgeries later, which took place with Methodist Healthcare, Gomez applied for the housekeeping job, knowing he was overqualified.
“This is where God wants me. I was done with outside work; my pay was going to drop drastically, but none of that mattered. I knew I was meant to be here.”
When he first started, Gomez simply cleaned around the hospital. Then he began going into rooms and making casual conversation with patients. Today, he is known at Methodist Hospital | South as a “patient advocate.” From opening/closing window blinds, fluffing pillows, switching out TV remotes, etc., Gomez goes above and beyond his call of duty to make patients comfortable during their stay. In the past few years, he has added to his ministry by purchasing Scripture cards, word searches, keychains, calendars and coloring pages with his own money and handing them out to patients in order to boost confidence in healing. He also takes time to pray with patients before they go into surgery as well as with any hospital staff member who requests it.
“This is the Lord’s work. The first thing I do every day is stop by the Chapel and pray that God makes it all about Him, not about me; that they will feel Him through me, and I’m seeing that happen.”
Other than encouraging gifts, Gomez uses his life story to help patients get through their own struggles.
“I always tell people, even though life gives you a negative, you can’t stay down. Because what happens to a negative? It [develops] into something beautiful. And that’s what happened to me. I took all the negatives in life and turned them into something beautiful.”
Gomez says doing God’s work has helped boost his own confidence and lower his anxiety and blood pressure. In addition, the welcoming environment of the Methodist Hospital | South team has made his life all the better.
“The love of this hospital is unreal. They treat each other like their own and look out for one another. They literally saved me and gave me a second chance at life. I’m grateful for them and that I can do the same for others with my job here.”
Knowing visitors and families weren’t permitted when COVID-19 hit, Gomez continued visiting with patients while cleaning their rooms.
“They only had nurses as company, and even then, it wasn’t that long because the nurses had to rush to another room. So, I took my time to visit with them.”
Gomez recalls praying with COVID patients and being present with some of them while they passed. He also prayed with nurses and other staff when things got tough. During Christmas time, he made little Christmas trees for each patient since they couldn’t celebrate with family.
“It was a very hard time for everyone. I felt bad because [patients] couldn’t have anyone with them, but they were just happy to have someone, even if it was a housekeeper, to talk to. It’s a great feeling knowing my job is helping people in more ways than just cleaning a room.