The REAL Awards – Honoring Health Workers Around the World

The REAL Awards – Some people enlighten us. Some people entertain us. Some people save our lives.

It has been nine years, almost to the day, since my Dad died. I can still replay much of that cold day in November much like a bad dream that you just can’t wake up from. While there are still memories playing in my head, they are now more of the man he was long before brain tumors invaded his brain. They are less of that last day of his life that included so much watching and waiting and uncontrollable amounts of pain and  more of the days long before when we celebrated birthdays and holidays never imagining something so awful could ever happen to our family. As that day on the calendar approaches and I feel out sorts for reasons I can’t seem to put my finger on until I glance at the date on my laptop or have to write the date on a check, I find myself right back at his bedside in the home where I lived for more than half of my childhood. It was the home where he spent most of his time before he got sick and so it was fitting that he would spend his last days in that very home. I remember how his breathes got progressively further apart until finally there were no more to count. I remember how I dropped my head onto his body and began to cry uncontrollably because no matter how much you know it is coming and no matter how much you think you have prepared for that moment, the reality of it is unbearable and you want nothing more than find a remote control and hit the rewind button, so you can have him back for just one more minute. I remember trying to catch my breath and then I remember rushing out of his bedroom because I knew there was no way I could be present for what would happen next. The funeral home arriving to take him away. I quickly made my way to the bedroom that was mine when I was a young girl and I just sat on the bed staring out the window not wanting to move, but also knowing I didn’t want to be staring out that very window when the hearse arrived. Before I knew it, someone was sitting next to me. She wasn’t a family member or a friend, but a hospice nurse. She immediately asked me about my relationship with my Dad and about the time he came into my life since he wasn’t my biological father. I’m not even sure how she knew that about us, but somehow she did. I remember thinking she was so calm and genuinely concerned for me even though we had never met before. I’m not really sure how she could remain so composed while surrounded by so many people in such excruciating pain. It takes a special kind of person to do that job of a hospice nurse. I know because I experienced a similar kindness from another one of them earlier on that very same day. While we mostly knew that this was going to be the day, nobody can really predict these kinds of things for certain. So just like so many days before, one of the hospice nurses arrived at my parents’ home in the morning to give my Dad his scheduled bath, the one that would be the last bath of his life. She gently explained that in such a fragile state, one turn of his body could cause him to take his last breath. She asked if I’d like to leave the room, so I wouldn’t have to witness what she was describing. I remember that moment so clearly. This woman, this nurse, this care provider, who was doing something I could never imagine doing  was more concerned about me and how I might be affected by what could happen during his bath. I looked at her and told her that if she could do this unimaginable job, then I could stay and help. He managed to hang on through his entire bath, but that didn’t surprise me because I’m pretty sure he enjoyed every moment of it even if he wasn’t conscious to express that fact to any of us.

When I recently heard of the first-ever global awards program designed to honor health workers from around the world as well as those here in the United States, I immediately thought of these incredible hospice nurses who cared so gently and compassionately, not only for my Dad, but for our entire family. Save the Children and the Frontline Healthworkers Coalition launched The REAL Awards as a way to develop a greater respect and appreciation for those who provide life-saving care to so many people around the world.

“Every year, awards are given to recognize the accomplishments of celebrities, actors, singers, athletes and entertainers,” said Mary Beth Powers, Campaign Chief for Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival Campaign. “Alongside the Oscars and Golden Globes in January, we will begin to honor a group of people who rarely receive recognition or accolades — health workers.”

Did you know that by some estimates there is a shortage of more than 5 million health workers across the world? This is especially a concern in developing countries and within rural areas right here in the United States. Often times patients are treated in health clinics or by midwives who serve as frontline providers of care because so often there is no access to doctors or hospitals. These frontline care providers work hard to save lives every day, but they are often lacking much needed supplies or support. While it is estimated that a child’s life is saved every 3 seconds because of the care received by a frontline health worker, there are still so many that go untreated or have chronic health issues that go unmanaged due to that lack of support and supplies. They could save so many more lives and end preventable diseases, but they can’t do it alone.

You can read the amazing and inspirational stories of all of the REAL Awards honorees and even nominate a health worker from the United States at The deadline to nominate a health worker is November 29, 2012 and the winners will be announced around the same time that so many people will be watching such awards shows as the Golden Globes and Academy Awards on January 13, 2013.

Save the Children is the leading independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and 120 countries around the world. Please follow them Twitter and like their page on Facebook to stay up to date on all of the wonderful work that they are doing.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of my membership in the Global Team of 200, but this is a wonderful cause and all opinions and personal stories are my own.


  1. […] in November I shared a wonderful awards program with you called The REAL Awards. Health workers hold a special place in my heart, so sharing it was natural and easy and now that […]

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