Until 2006, Stephanie Krienitz never had traveled outside the U.S. Since then, she’s made eight trips to foreign countries to perform volunteer work, including three medical missions to the Philippines, while also working as a nurse at Rush University Medical Center. In recognition of her service at Rush and around the world, the American Red Cross of the Greater Chicago Region has chosen Krienitz to receive its 2014 Nurse Hero award. She will be one of the honorees at the Red Cross’ Heroes Breakfast on Wednesday, April 30, from 7:30 to 9:30 at the Imperial Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, 200 N. Columbus Drive, Chicago.
“It’s not heroic, anything I’ve done. It’s more of a pleasure and a privilege that I get to do it,” Krienitz modestly says. “It’s a fulfilling job helping other people, and it’s really cool when you get to do that job outside your normal arena and see how different things are in other parts of the world.”
Krienitz made the first of her trips to the Philippines in 2006 and the third in early 2013. The trips were arranged by Calvary Church of Naperville, of which she is a member, and led by Filipino physician who also is a member of the congregation.
Working in open-air clinics, she performs physical assessments in order to help triage hundreds of patients a day with conditions ranging from bad teeth to high blood pressure to parasitic infections. While the extreme conditions of some patients can heart wrenching, “people are so happy to see us. You can feel how much they appreciate everything you’ve done for them, and feel you can make a difference,” she says.
In addition, Krienitz has traveled to Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Ethiopia and Ireland as part of Calvary Church missions to build drug rehabilitation centers and church buildings. “I help with painting, clean up, cooking, anything they want me to do,” she says.
She pays her own way on the trips, which last 10 days to two weeks, and also purchases medical supplies to donate to the clinics. “We take a lot of things for granted here, like the equipment. Even the lowest level equipment that a nurse would buy for herself here would be so nice for someone over there,” she observes.
A graduate of the Rush University College of Nursing, Krienitz, 42, has worked at Rush for 22 years and currently is a charge nurse in the Mother Baby Unit on 8 Atrium. The compassion that motivates her volunteer work also is apparent in her care for Rush patients, according to Ashley Calandra, RN, a colleague in the Mother Baby Unit who nominated Krienitz for the Nurse Hero award.
“Stephanie is a genuine, compassionate, loving, kind, joyful, hard working nurse,” Calandra says. “She is known by patients and co-works to have the utmost personal integrity in all areas of her life.”
Krienitz clearly finds great fulfillment in helping others, whether at Rush or abroad. “I am certain that the days that are hardest on my heart are the days that make me love my job the most,” she says. “To anyone who reads this I say, hug your family, tell God how thankful you are for all your blessings, and quit wasting time complaining and spend your time living and loving."