For Garner, Gerard, Gilbert, Audrey and Adele Reyes, giving back is what they were born to do. Born 11 weeks early and each weighing less than three pounds when a team of more than 20 doctors and nurses delivered them, the "Miracle Babies," as they were called, needed a lot of helping hands to survive. Sixteen years later and back in the hospital, this time as junior volunteers at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, the teenagers are more than surviving — they're thriving.
"When we were born prematurely, my mom always told us we had a lot of blood donors who helped us survive," said Garner, the youngest of the quintuplets by just minutes. "It feels like we have a debt to repay."
Once a week, the quintuplets volunteer at Sharp Chula Vista, where their mom, Lily, is manager/director of the Birch Patrick Skilled Nursing Facility. Garner and Gerard volunteer in the Pharmacy Department, Gilbert is a messenger aide, and sisters Audrey and Adele are maternity aides in the Labor and Delivery Department.
"I feel proud when staff and other volunteers appreciate what I do," Gilbert said. "Visitors always thank me for helping them with whatever they need."
The volunteer efforts continue beyond the hospital. All five siblings, who are juniors at Otay Ranch High School, volunteer at Mater Dei Catholic Church in Chula Vista, for Sharp Lends a Hand projects, and by walking in the March for Babies and Heart Walk.
While it would be understandable if the quintuplets preferred to avoid hospitals — the last child to leave the NICU, Adele, went home 83 days after she was born — the teens feel anything but, and hope to one day pursue careers in health care.
"When I go into the rooms with the cart, I smile and see if anybody needs anything. I know that even the smallest things I can do can make a big difference," Adele said.
"We are fortunate to have so many talented and dedicated junior volunteers at Sharp Chula Vista," said Kelly Whitehouse, volunteer services coordinator. "Each brings their own individual touch, which makes our program unique and successful. These students are our future, and I'm excited to see where they take us."
For More Information
Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center's Volunteer Program is open to students and adults. To find out about volunteer opportunities, call 619-502-3606 or visit Volunteer Opportunities.
Photo credit: Sean M. Haffey/U-T San Diego