Wanda Osmen Boughton has both a big heart and a healthy heart. For close to 20 years, Wanda has taken in donations of everything from clothing and blankets to toys and food, and passed them along to people in need. But at the end of 2021, she went to Rochester General Hospital for cardiac testing and doctors found five blockages.
“They told me I needed bypass surgery, and I was there for eight days,” said Wanda, who is nurse manager at Clifton Springs Nursing Home.
She had never had surgery before, so she was understandably nervous.
“They were great to me there,” she said. In fact, one nurse took Wanda under her wing and offered encouragement and even extra support. “She picked up extra shifts because she knew I was having a procedure or was going home, because she wanted to be there to make sure everything went well with my discharge from the hospital. She treated all of her patients that way.”
That’s one of the goals at the Sands-Constellation Heart Institute, said Wanda’s surgeon, Ronald Kirshner, MD.
“We do a lot of heart surgeries, but we take every single one of them very seriously,” he said. “We try to offer extremely personalized care, so our patients can feel like they are the only patient we’re taking care of.”
Dr. Kirshner and his colleagues also focus on recovery.
“We plan these procedures so people can get back out there doing the good things they do and resume their lifestyles as quickly as possible,” he said. “I’m thrilled to hear she’s doing so well.”
While Wanda raves about her time at the Sands-Constellation Heart Institute, she’s also grateful that she can see her cardiologist for follow-ups right in Clifton Springs – in the same building where she works.
“I can walk right over and see him,” said Wanda, who is dedicated to serving and uplifting the Clifton Springs community.
Twenty-one years ago, when Wanda worked at what was then known as Lifetime Care, one of her patients suggested that they help a family at Christmas. Now, Lifetime Care and Wanda are part of the Rochester Regional Health system, and Wanda’s dedication to helping others has grown and grown.
“Year by year, it has gotten bigger and bigger,” she said, and now her work even has a name: Wanda’s Kids.
She collects bottles to raise money, and she asks for donations of specific items on her personal Facebook page to help children who need coats, and for families who have lost their homes to fires.
“How can you not help a child or a family in need?” asks Wanda, who grew up watching her mother struggle to provide for her four children after a divorce. “We had a one-bedroom apartment, and my mom slept on the couch. We didn’t realize we were poor.”
Still, there were things that Wanda’s family couldn’t afford, like a Skipper or a Midge doll.
“I wouldn’t want kids to feel how I felt if I could help it,” she said, so Wanda’s Kids pulls together backpacks full of school supplies in the fall, gifts at Christmas, and Easter baskets in the spring.
Thanks to Wanda – and all those who donated – 73 children got backpacks and 20 to 25 children got school clothes this year. And last year, close to 1,000 people received some sort of help from Wanda’s Kids, including 163 kids in Wayne County who had a brighter Christmas.
“At Christmas, people donate money, clothing items, food, and diapers. They need all these things, not just the toys,” she said. “It would be great to fill up my entire house this year because so many people are in need. Over the last several months, the price of gas and the price of food has gotten so high. Even if you get food stamps, it’s hard to keep up.”
But Wanda and her healthy heart will be there to help.
“The number of people we help grows every year.”