Three days a week, for 12-hour shifts, Olivia Rodriguez is the first face team members and visitors to Riley Hospital for Children see when they step off the elevator on the fourth floor.
As a bilingual secretary for the Riley NICU, she is a welcoming presence for all, but especially those who might be intimidated by a language barrier.
And as a mother of three, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of two, she can’t help but be moved by the emotions that play out on this unit, where tiny babies struggle against all odds to survive and families deal with the ups and downs of life in the NICU.
“I like to talk to the families, get to know them and welcome them to the NICU,” she said one day, as she juggled phone calls and answered questions. “We have nice families.”
Rodriguez has been with Riley for 10 years. She started in environmental services, then moved to the operating room as an OR assistant, then to the NICU as an equipment tech before taking the secretary job a year ago. Her husband, Carmelo, also works in the NICU as an equipment tech. She says she doesn’t get tired of seeing him at work and at home.
“It’s nice to work together and be there for each other.”
And she’s there for others as well – families, nurses and others who might be having a hard day.
“There are some days that are sad and we support them, we have a shoulder for them.”
As she talks, a former colleague from the OR spies her at the desk and tells her how she misses her. “Say hi to everybody over there,” Rodriguez tells the woman.
In the NICU, Rodriguez and her husband are beloved by the staff.
“They are both such hard-working and pleasant people,” said nurse Susie McSwain. “They are happy to be here and happy to help.”
When the couple found out McSwain loves Mexican food, they brought in homemade salsa, guacamole and chips one day for the team.
“I just wanted a recipe,” McSwain said. “I wanted it to be authentic, but this was so kind.”
Off the clock, Rodriguez also loves to dance. But her heart belongs to her family.
“My family is my joy.”
– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist