There’s a lot about Buffalo to be proud of and celebrate, and most lifelong Western New Yorkers, like myself, are quick to sing the praises of the City of Good Neighbors on a regular basis. Often, however, the mainstays of our community carry on their business quietly and without pomp and circumstance, and the exemplary service they provide every day never makes a headline. Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo is one such place.

From the time of my husband, Lou’s, diagnosis of esophageal cancer on Feb. 22 to his death on June 20, I learned a great deal about Mercy Hospital and its compassion and deep commitment to quality health care. Not knowing that the cancer had spread, we went to the hospital on June 17 because my husband was dehydrated. I knew Lou was very sick, but I don’t think anyone suspected he’d be gone within the span of four days. Throughout those four days, however, I witnessed an outstanding level of care by the doctors, nurses, radiologic technicians, administrators and aides that far surpassed my expectations.

The critical nature of our situation was overwhelming, so I prayed for help in understanding the medical terminology that was so foreign to me. Through the staff’s honest, straightforward and compassionate communication, my prayers were answered as I was quickly put at ease and was able to think clearly in order to make the difficult decisions required. It was confirmed that the cancer had metastasized into his lungs and Hospice was called in.

Walking through the final days and hours of death with a loved one is heartbreaking and exhausting, but when surrounded by people who have a genuine love for mankind and the gift of compassion, both patient and family feel less alone, less afraid and less unprepared. I was unaware of Mercy Hospital’s mission statement: “Our mission – to reveal the healing love of Jesus to those in need – is what sets us apart. It’s the human side of health care – the touch, smile or comforting word that can help make your health care experience better. It’s treating all people with respect and dignity, and providing comfort in times of greatest need.”

Each staff member who assisted us during our time of greatest need succeeded in this mission. There wasn’t a moment that I felt abandoned or on my own. A helpful hand, a listening ear, an expert professional was always available to meet our needs, even to the point of staying hours after her shift had ended to ensure Lou was as comfortable as possible, as one precious ICU nurse did. Like so many others, she exemplifies what Mercy Hospital is all about.

And though the “face” of health care is changing, no law or government-imposed regulation can change the true face of health care that is inherent in the love one human heart has for another and the powerful way it manifests itself through a touch, a smile or a comforting word, all of which plays out so beautifully every day within one of South Buffalo’s mainstays.

I felt the love of God within Mercy Hospital’s walls in a powerfully personal way and I know Lou did, too, right up to the very end. As I imagine angels hovering above his hospital bed, I now know flesh and blood “angels” who made a very difficult time for my family a little easier to bear. Thank you all for everything you did. Your countless acts of kindness and love will never be forgotten.