When not at the Savannah River Site, Randy Hicks, a senior design specialist for Savannah River Remediation, volunteers. It was his volunteerism that distinguished him recently as a “hero” by the Aiken County American Red Cross.
He was among a list of others who were honored by the Red Cross at its annual Heroes Breakfast held March 28 in Aiken.
His volunteering happens to be in the home health care profession, which he has been doing for 20 years, most recently at the Regency Hospice of Aiken the last 8½ years. It is this volunteering that caught the attention of the Red Cross.
“Volunteering for hospice means you are with people that have a terminal illness, who usually have less than a six-month life expectancy,” Hicks said. “It can be very tough because you get close to them. Many patients live longer than six months, and you become attached to them.”
He said that as the patient’s disease progresses, everything they do becomes more difficult, which leads Hicks to be more than a person providing conversation and companionship.
“The first thing I look at or ask about when I visit someone is safety. I ask if they have a smoke detector in their home and, if they don’t, I install one,” Hicks said. “I don’t want to read in the paper one day that a person died in their home because of a fire, and they didn’t have a working smoke detector. The smoke detectors are inexpensive, and I buy them by the bulk.”
Installing smoke detectors is only one thing he does. While visiting, Hicks may install grab bars in bathrooms to help prevent the person from falling. He installs door alert sensors to help prevent them from wandering away. He changes light bulbs, cleans and repairs wheelchairs, builds wheelchair ramps, and even celebrates birthdays and delivers Thanksgiving meals to those who are without family.
While safety and helping others may be foremost on his mind, Hicks also enjoys the conversation he has with the hospice patients, which usually centers around what the person he is visiting has on their mind. This one-on-one time allows family members to perform errands or just to take a much needed break from their home care responsibilities.
For Hicks, this time is special.
“I have been blessed by the time I have shared with others in their time of need,” Hicks said. “I do get attached to many of the patients and families, and the loss does hurt. But they are so appreciative of all that we do; it is worth it.”
His commitment to helping others has led to him being awarded Regency Hospice Volunteer of the Year three times.
For Hicks, volunteering is not only rewarding because he is able to help others, he volunteers because it allows him to spend more time with his wife of 31 years.