WATE 6 On Your Side Heroes

UT Medical Center trauma survivor network coordinator a hero among patients in her care

WATE 6 On Your Side Heroes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A young woman who nearly died in a car crash back in March says she wouldn’t have made such an astonishing recovery without her team of doctors and nurses at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.

But there’s one woman she calls her “rock” — one of the unsung heroes in social work who fills a critical need. Elizabeth Waters is this week’s 6 On Your Side Hero.

Patient Joanna Witkowski is grateful to get some fresh air, wheeled out of her hospital room to talk with us about her hero. She says Waters has made a big difference in the 80 days Joanna has been a patient at UT Medical Center.

“I think if she wasn’t here to help me out, I wouldn’t have direction on how I need to talk to,” Joanna says. “I was going through some major surgeries and I remember the first major surgery I had – I woke up and I was on  the phone with my mom and I was like ‘why are you not here?’ and she said, ‘We’re not allowed to.’ That was the toughest part.”

Elizabeth Waters is the Trauma Survivor Network Coordinator, getting to know patients like Joanna to help them navigate the system, her role taking on even more significance during the COVID-19 pandemic when no visitors were allowed.

“We’re all experiencing this grief and trauma of the pandemic, and being able to support others during this time: when it first happened, I was glad to come to work. I was not concerned about what was going to happen if I go see patients. I wanted to see patients because I knew they were here alone without their families,” Waters says. “They’re able to decompress with us and talk about feelings or just regular day-to-day stuff.”

Waters doesn’t see herself as a hero, but her calm manner and ever present smile are a gift to many.

“At the end of the day, I feel very fulfilled, ” she says. “Joanna, she is a trauma survivor just like many others and just to see them persevere, I’ve been able to see her just grow over time in her recovery and every time I come in her room, I’m  happy and I tell her I’m so happy to see her becaue she is healing and she’s looking great.”

Joanna simply says, “she’s been like my rock.”

Congratulations, Elizabeth Waters, and thank you for being a hero.

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