Pictured earlier this year are (l-r) Tim Parry, Highland District Hospital vice president of operations; Patty Krebs, HDH RN; and Bridget Skaggs, Outpatient Specialty Services department manager. (Courtesy of HDH.)
Pictured earlier this year are (l-r) Tim Parry, Highland District Hospital vice president of operations; Patty Krebs, HDH RN; and Bridget Skaggs, Outpatient Specialty Services department manager. (Courtesy of HDH.)

If you’ve ever spent any time at Highland District Hospital, you just knew her as “Aunt Patty.”

Simply put, she was everyone’s favorite aunt. Frankly, it’s difficult to think of Highland District Hospital without Aunt Patty.

She was on the front page of The Highland County Press this spring when she was nominated for the Ohio Hospital Association’s 2017 Health Care Worker of the Year Award.

At the appropriate time – in the not-too-distant future – it would behoove Highland District Hospital to have a local recognition such as the “Patty Krebs Health Care Worker of the Year Award.”

I’m sure those who knew her would appreciate that tribute in remembrance of her many years of service to this community.

Aunt Patty spent more than 55 years serving her community as a registered nurse at local doctors’ offices and at Highland District Hospital. Think about that. For more than half a century, she was there, caring for others. Many of them total strangers – but not for long. She wouldn’t tolerate that. She’d get to know you. Your family. Your ancestors. Your friends. Soon, she would become family.

She was there (in person, in spirit or both) on a cold winter Tuesday – Jan. 31, 1989 – when our first child was born. On a much warmer Monday, Aug. 13, 1990 – when our second daughter was born – Aunt Patty was there. She was also there on Monday, Dec. 26, 1994 when our son was born a day after Christmas. (And not without some serious complications.)

She was also there in 1989 when cancer claimed my dad at an all-too-young 52 years. The two of them shared a Nov. 2 birthday. Patty was four years younger. Both children of the Great Depression.

“She embodies the meaning of health care," Bridget Skaggs, Outpatient Specialty Services manager, said of Aunt Patty. “She truly puts the patient first.”

Aunt Patty started her career volunteering as a "candy striper.” She was a mentor to both new and veteran nurses, offering constructive criticism and advice. Her leadership, dedication and endless devotion always set the example for others.

In April of this year, former Highland County Commissioner Harriet Fenner shared this comment with Highland County Press readers: “Patty, you have been a blessing to HDH since you started your career! Through the years, when I had to have tests run, just seeing your face put me at ease. I personally hope you never leave! Thanks for being there and being you!”

Harriet’s comments about Aunt Patty’s ability to put people at ease in often stressful situations really hit home.

Aunt Patty did that for me on multiple occasions. And for full disclosure, I absolutely hate being inside a hospital – as a patient or visitor – it makes no difference. I don’t like it. Not one damned bit. Just bringing lunch from Frisch’s to my favorite nurse on the second floor at HDH is a struggle.

In fact, Bill Lange once called my hospital demeanor similar to Hub’s (Robert Duvall from “Second-hand Lions”) after Bill and Brian Perkins conspired to rip my Achilles’ tendon from my left leg 15 years ago. (That was my infamous “Who shot me?” moment.)

When I came to after surgery, my first reaction was to yell at the anesthetist (I think his name was Owen or maybe Tom, I’m not very good with names) to get the show on the road so I could get back to work.

Owen (or Tom) calmly explained that they were done, and I could put my drawers back on. Five minutes later, I was back to work. That’s the truth.

Aunt Patty was there again for me much more recently when Dr. Battaglia removed some skin cancer from my otherwise misshapen face. “Rory, what are you doing here?” she asked, in her always upbeat and pleasant voice.

“I guess they’re supposed to cut this thing off my face,” I told her.

“Just relax. They will take great care of you,” Aunt Patty told me.

As always, she was right.

Emily Bloom Jackson, a nursing instructor at Southern State Community College, shared this tribute to Patty Krebs.

“Patty has a near and dear place in my heart. She was also my Mom's nurse in OB when I was born. She was the first one to put an IV in me when I was a teen. She was the one who taught me how to place IVs in nursing school, and guided me when I worked down in endoscopy.

“She said time after time, ‘It will be OK, honey,’ and patted my hand. Patty was always the glue that held the department together. I always knew if Patty was there, we were going to be OK! I could only aspire to have half of the work ethic this woman gave to the world of nursing. So sad to hear the news, but thankful she was able to bless so many people on earth.”

My wife, Pam, who’s been an RN for the past 30 years or so, congratulated Aunt Patty on her honor earlier this year.

“Congratulations, Patty! You have always been a mentor and help to me these past 30 years. You are a friend to everyone, and you have been ‘Aunt Patty’ to my kids since their birth. You deserve this honor and more.”

Our family – like many others – have had some life-and-death moments at Highland District Hospital. The one constant inspiration that everything would turn out all right – at least for me – was Registered Nurse Patty Krebs. She just knew instinctively that some of us are ill at ease inside a hospital. She made everything better. No one else could ever do that.

Someone named Betty, who did not want her last named published, had this to say about Aunt Patty.

“This (nomination) couldn't happen to a more deserving person. You are the greatest. It is always a pleasure to see your smiling face and beaming personality.

“You are HDH.”

Betty, I couldn't agree more. Aunt Patty helped Pam and me get through the births of our three children at HDH and the death of my father.

All nurses – and doctors – could learn from Patty. She was the best. 

Patricia Ann Krebs passed away Friday, Oct. 27 at the age of 76. The Turner Funeral Home is serving the family.

She will be missed by those who knew and loved her. I cannot imagine a better ambassador for Highland District Hospital.

Godspeed.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.