Marie Curtis was a newcomer to Doctors Hospital and immediately saw a friend in fellow Registered Nurse Angel Banford.
Curtis was returning to nursing nine years ago and having to deal with new computer systems in addition to patient care.
"(Banford) asked me, probably my first week up there, if I was going to sink or swim up here on Four East," Curtis said. "I said, 'I think I am dog-paddling pretty good.' She just grinned. ... From then on I knew she had my back and if I needed something I could call Angel."
That's only one reason Curtis nominated her long-time friend and colleague for the 2008 Family Caregiver of the Year award, given by the CSRA Care-Net and CSRA Regional Development Center Area Agency on Aging.
The award, recently presented to Banford at the agency's annual caregiver luncheon, recognizes those who show a strong commitment to their care-giving role.
"The award was quite a surprise and I was very touched," Banford said, adding that it took her a while to realize they were describing her. "But that's not why I do this."
Banford, of Evans, not only cares for her co-workers and friends, but has put in a lot of time and effort as primary caregiver to several ill family members.
Beginning in early 1999, Banford spent two-and-a-half years caring for her father, who died from emphysema in 2001. She then took on the care of her uncle, who died in 2002 from pancreatic cancer.
Needing a break from working 12-hour shifts as a nurse at the hospital and spending all of her time outside of work care-giving, Banford moved off the nursing floor and now does education and orders supplies for five of the hospital units.
"I was very tired from caring for family then coming here and caring for patients," Banford said. "So it was very draining. ... I wouldn't have been able to care for my family if I'd had 12-hour shifts here caring for patients. It would have been too much for me."
Banford, who is active in the Agency on Aging's caregiver support group, took over as primary caregiver for her grandmother.
"My grandmother, My Mimi, raised me," Banford said. "She cared for everybody under the sun. Anytime there was anybody sick, she was right there by their side. I did what was taught to me."
After more than four years caring for her grandmother, Banford had to put her in a nursing home. She suffers from dementia associated with Parkinson's Disease.
"The award meant more to me not because I got the award, but because she would be so proud of me for that award," Banford said.
Georgia Jopling, coordinator of the Agency on Aging's Care-Net, said a review committee chose Banford from other area nominees.
Curtis said Banford is at the nursing home often in addition to taking care of her grandmother's home and bills.
"There's very few days that pass that she will let go by that she doesn't check on her Mimi, physically check on her at the nursing home," Curtis said.
In addition to caring for her co-workers and family, including her husband and two teenage children, she is active in the support group that was formed more than a year ago.
"I can spot a caregiver at the bedside a mile away," Banford said. "So I come get my stuff, my support group fliers and invite them to the group. I listen to what they have to say. A lot of times, they'll cry and I'll give them a hug and offer anything that I can."
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