TULSA - There is a rhythmic hum to the machines in the neo-natal unit. It’s punctuated by the gentle swishing sound of the big green rocker.
Nestled among its cushions Terry Underwood softly sings to Baby Sophia. As her face brightens, she tells Sophia, “You’re going to go home tomorrow.” But, even after Sophia leaves, Underwood will stay.
Underwood has been a fixture at St. Francis Hospital for 47 years. She helps out on the surgical, admitting desks, and she is a volunteer cuddler in the NIC-U.
“I started work when my youngest boy went to kindergarten and I needed something to do,” she said.
While Underwood calls her volunteer service “work,” she has never wanted or received a paycheck for it. She said she simply does it for the joy she gets from helping others.
“I enjoy it very much because I enjoy meeting the people and I enjoy taking care of them.”
Underwood wanted to be a nurse, but never got the training, so this is the next best thing.
Since 1967, Underwood has put in almost 28,000 volunteer hours at hospital.
“I love holding babies. I love to sing to them, and I talk to them about what kind of world they’re going to be living in and just what they’ll do when they grow up, you know.”
Nurse Kerstin Wilson said Underwood’s tireless enthusiasm for her chosen “work” is infectious and inspiring.
“She is one of the most awesome and amazing women, and we all want to grow up to be just like her,” Wilson said.
For Underwood, that’s payment enough for a life’s “work.”
“I really do feel good that I do make a difference," Underwood said. "When I go home I am so satisfied at what I have done.”
At 90 years old, Underwood has no plans of retiring from her volunteer job. She expects to be cuddling babies in the big green rocker and helping patients through the surgical admitting process for years to come.