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Gracie's Big Secret at Warren Tech North

Gracie's Big Secret at Warren Tech North
Posted on 12/21/2017

Medical assisting students at Warren Tech North listen as “Gracie” talks about what it’s like being a long term care resident.See the JPS-TV version of this story here

“We have a special guest today, and her name is Gracie.”

These students at Warren Tech North are interested in working as certified nursing assistants, or CNA’s, with some looking to enter the often demanding field of long term care. Gracie’s visit is to give them a bit of special insight.

“So I’m here today to talk to you about nursing homes and how people who live in nursing homes feel about nursing homes or what they would like you to be doing when you’re working there,” Gracie explained.

It’s hard not to notice the tattered green sweater, the cobalt blue walker, and the constant tremor in Gracie’s right hand.

“You guys will be working with old people, and a lot of them are not as nice or as funny as I am,” she said.

The students were respectful and focused. For the next hour, Gracie shared anecdotes about what it’s like being on the receiving end of this type of care.

“Don’t talk about us like we’re not there,” she said.

What the students didn’t know was that Gracie wasn’t Gracie at all.

“My name is Barbara Porreca. I’m an LPN, but I also teach CNA classes, and work with the Alzheimer’s residents,” she reveiled.

Porreca has spent close to 40 years as a caregiver, most recently at the Bear Creek Center in Morrison, where her many duties include organizing a Christmas pageant for residents.

Her double life as “Gracie” takes her all over the country. Her hope is that each presentation will not only enlighten, but touch hearts.

“I always hope that one thing will click, and it doesn’t matter to me really which thing clicks, but that they stop before they go to do something and think am I doing this as honorably and, and as gently and compassionately as I possibly can? Is this- am I doing the right thing?” said Prreca. “I think that I get a good result. I think that a lot of people, who have seen the program, they walk away with something, um, and that’s, that’s the whole goal, and- to honor the CNA.”

You won’t ever hear Porreca calling Certified Nursing Assistants aides. It’s a description that she says is unjust.

“There are very few folks that could do that work. We could all do it for a day, but could you do it for a lifetime, and it is hard, it doesn’t pay particularly well, it takes a toll on your body, your physical body.” Porreca explained. “But it also takes a toll on your soul, you know? These guys don’t come to work every day for the heck of it, they come to work because they love these residents, and they die, or they get really sick, or something bad happens, and we keep coming back the next day, and it, it’s, it’s definitely a calling.”

As Gracie, Porreca drives the point home to her student listeners, and when she finally reveals herself, and the surprise wears off, her audience is grateful.

“I thought it was genius, I never saw it coming, and I just thought it was really clever that she turned the tables in that area that she went from a resident to being a nurse, and how, I think she was trying to teach us that we should put ourselves in another residents shoes in order to understand what they’re going through when they’re at a nursing home,” said student Amanda McLaughlin.

“The one that lesson that I remember, um, clearly is “don’t look at the chandelier, look at the residents.” It’s- it doesn’t matter you’re- it doesn’t matter where you are, it just matters how you’re treated,” added student Joseph Tafoya.

“What really matters is, the personal one on one connection with them, not just trying to rush through the day and get everything on your list done, but really taking your time to make sure they have the best care possible,” concluded student Olivia Grosbach.

McLaughlin added, “For me, I believe my life purpose is to help other people, and that is what I want to do with my life. That’s my calling, and I believe that by becoming a CNA that will allow me to do that, and I’ll be making a difference in other people’s lives, and that’s what matters most to me.”

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