‘They treated me like family’; Nurse manager trusts St. James Parish Hospital with father’s care

Published 1:22 am Wednesday, November 23, 2022

LUTCHER — Carlos Vargas had tears in his eyes as he left St. James Parish Hospital after spending two weeks in the skilled nursing facility. On the ride home, he kept repeating, “They treated me like family.”

Vargas was in the unique position of actually having a family member at the hospital – his daughter, Karley Babin, who manages the Skilled Nursing Program. But the strong bond he formed with all of the staff members was far from special treatment. It was a reflection of the compassionate, competent care the St. James Parish Hospital team offers to every patient who comes through the door.

Quality of care was the reason Babin insisted upon her father receiving skilled bed services at St. James Parish Hospital after he underwent back surgery at Baton Rouge General this past August, despite the fact that there were many facilities closer to his Ascension Parish home.

“At the time when we were trying to decide where to send him, the hospital really wanted us to go to another facility for skilled care because he’s from Gonzales, and they didn’t understand why I was so insistent about it that I would pass up 100 facilities for him to come here. This is in my opinion one of the best places for skilled patients to come,” Babin said.

Babin worked at St. James Hospital previously before branching out in her career, but she found herself drawn back to the hospital that is large enough to serve but small enough to care.

“I’ve never felt like I was in a family hospital as much as I do here. We’re very community-based. I knew that if he would come here, he would see family more than anywhere else,” Babin said. “The staff went above and beyond, not because they knew he was my dad, but because that’s what they do for every single patient here. They literally treat you like family.”

Within 12 hours of Vargas’ arrival to the swing bed unit, everybody knew him by his first name. According to the skilled nursing staff, patients are encouraged to wear their own clothing, bring items from home, and have visitors to maintain as much normalcy as possible while receiving physical and occupational therapy services. Other ways of making patients comfortable in their temporary surroundings include offering group activities and keeping the atmosphere lighthearted and positive.

Vargas formed a bond with licensed clinical social worker Melba Perez-Berguno, who recently retired. When Perez-Berguno heard Vargas speaking Spanish, she shared that she was from Puerto Rico, and he told her he was from Cuba. It wasn’t long before they were reminiscing over their favorite childhood foods, and Perez-Berguno showed up the next day with traditional Spanish dishes that she had prepared overnight specifically for him.

Vargas also enjoyed attending  meetings, where patients, staff and family come together for an overview of personal progress and goals.

The staff was pleased to see Vargas come visit this week, and it was especially fulfilling for them to see he is now walking on his own. Vargas is continuing to pursue outpatient therapy three days a week, but he won’t soon forget his experience in St. James Parish.

“When I came here, I couldn’t stand up straight. They took their time with me to get me to the stage where I’m at now,” Vargas said. “I told them when I came here not to give me special treatment because I’m someone’s relative, but they cleared that up for me right away and told me they were going to treat me like any other patient.”

Babin is immensely proud of the staff on her unit for confirming what she already knew in her heart.

“This was my first chance to bring someone from my family into the St. James Parish Hospital realm, and they exceeded my expectations as a manager. It re-iterated the fact that we are a family-based hospital,” she said.