June 12, 2014

Regina Health Center nurse pays it forward in serving others

The Richfield Times Magazine in Richfield, Ohio, recently ran a feature article about Mary Ann Roth, a nurse at Regina Health Center who relies on her faith and experience as an accomplished violinist to lead a life of helping others. Regina Health Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

As seen in The Richfield Times Magazine:

Richfield woman’s life weaves a tapestry of service

Richfield resident Mary Ann Roth said she sometimes feels her life is like the “Tapestry Poem” by Corrie Ten Boom: a tapestry God is weaving, where the dark and light threads are making a pattern that can only be discerned by him. But many of the seniors she has cared for in her nursing career at Regina Health Center might affirm her pattern of helping others is very apparent here on earth.

Roth described her childhood home as dysfunctional, sometimes tumultuous. As the youngest of three siblings, the atmosphere made her realize she wanted a life that was different for herself, and for her future family.

Roth credits her ability to withstand an oft-disordered family life and even thrive  with help she received from key people. The man she calls the most influential man in her life at that time was Pastor  Donald Schaeffer, who lived nearby and encouraged her family to attend church. Roth described him as a refuge for herself  and her siblings when family discord was at a peak.

“He pointed me to the love and grace of God, where I found hope and strength, especially as a teenager,” said Roth.

Roth’s maternal grandmother Ella, who lived to be 103, was another positive  influence. Ella lived with Roth’s aunt, a nurse who cared for her mother. Roth said that seeing how her grandmother thrived under her aunt’s care first kindled her interest in nursing as a possible career.

Finally, Roth’s childhood friend Karen Kovalak and her family – so different from the family she was growing up in – encouraged and supported her. Karen was another influential reason Roth wound up in the field of nursing. When she and Karen graduated together from Midpark High School in Middleburg Heights, Karen elected to pursue a nursing degree at St. John’s College. Roth decided to follow Karen, in part, because she knew she could continue to have her friendship and support.

While at St. John’s College, Roth often had a hard time making tuition payments. It was at this time that she met yet another person in her tapestry. Louis Knier was the financial aide director. Roth describes his commitment as “offering assistance above and beyond his responsibilities ... He saw my passion for nursing.”

One day, while Roth was tearfully describing her financial plight to him in his office, he said to her, “You take care of your nursing courses, and we’ll work out the finances.” Roth smiled as she recounted, “He kept his promises.”

In what Roth believes is a divine example of God’s weaving, she now cares for this man’s sibling, 95-year-old nun Sister Assumpta Knier, at Regina Health Center.

“We have had several memorable conversations about God’s provisions and about her brother’s love and devotion for his work at St. John’s,” said Roth of Knier.

Roth said that nursing has provided her with an opportunity to pay it forward.

“As God has provided his love and provision through special people … I have had an opportunity to serve others and my family in various ways,” said Roth. “Nursing has given me the opportunity to interact with patients and their families, showing empathy and compassion in perplexing and painful situations.”

Roth began her career as an acute care nurse in a hospital and also taught nursing for a time, but she found a special calling at Regina Health Center several years ago.

End-of-life nursing could be considered depressing for some, but not for Roth. She described the traditional role of nursing as one that returns people to wellness and a normal lifestyle, but in long-term care the goal is to provide “wellness within the framework of their ability to be well … We help them to find a sense of meaning in their lives, even in their final chapters.”

Roth insists her patients provide her with as many blessings as she brings to them. She recounted a time when she was worrying about having to work on Easter, as she walked with a patient with dementia. Suddenly the woman looked right at Roth and quoted a passage from a psalm that spoke to what Roth was feeling.

Roth’s gifts extend beyond nursing. As a violinist she shares her love of music with the patients at Regina and also performs at a variety of events including recognition dinners, church events, cafes, historical sites like Stan Hywet Hall and weddings, some in her own family. She is a long-time member of the Richfield Village Musicians.

Roth fondly remembers another meaningful adult in her childhood, her music teacher Norm Ludwig. He gave Roth and her sister to try violin and gave them private lessons through high school.

“Music helps us connect and communicate with people from all walks of life,” Roth said.

She loves to play a variety of music, such as patriotic, inspirational, holiday and some classical music, but Roth’s favorites are folk and Celtic music.

“I believe that the power of music to heal and help is a gift from God that can comfort many,” Roth said.

Roth met her husband, Rod, when she was a student at St. John’s College. St. John’s College abruptly ceased to exist between Roth’s junior and senior years, so its students had to finish at Ursuline College, where Roth obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.

That was an eventful time, as Rod and Mary Ann Roth were also married between her junior and senior years. She credits her husband with giving her the inspiration and help to finish school and pass her Ohio State board examinations.

“He helped me study for difficult courses and would often ‘burn the midnight oil’ with me,” said Roth.

The Roths have four children, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Timothy and Jeremy. They were all raised in Richfield, a community that Roth is quick to recognize thankfully as a great place for family life. She credits family, church and community for helping her children grow into strong young adults.

Summing up the work in progress that is the tapestry of her life, Roth voiced her inspiration by quoting the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 2:13: “for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Those who have known Roth through her work and family life would attest that she has lived and continues to live out that sentiment.

Pictured on the magazine cover are Roth (standing) and Sister Assumpta Knier, whom Roth helps care for at Regina Health Center.

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