Patient volunteers help others at Frazier Rehabilitation Clinic

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jerry Giancola’s smile is medicinal. The longtime volunteer of the Frazier Rehab Institute in Louisville is known for his warm welcome to patients and visitors.

What would you like to know

  • Jerry Giancola is one of Frazier Rehab’s favorite volunteers in Louisville
  • Jerry has a rare condition called Pompe disease
  • Rebah staff said Giancola does a great job welcoming patients

Patients visiting the Frazier Rehabilitation Institute to Louisville are generally long-term and frequent visitors. Jerry Giancola has come to know many of them over the years as a long-time volunteer.

The 73-year-old can be seen several days a week at the information desk. He greets everyone with a smile.

“They don’t live here, but they come in and out every day, and I’m just trying to be encouraging because most of them know me because I’ve been here for so long,” Giancola said.

Giancola probably knows Frazier as well as anyone, as he’s been a regular volunteer here since 2015. He was a patient here even before that.

“This arm will not go up to the end,” explained Giancola.

The former business professor and college analyst suffers from a rare condition called Pompe disease. It only affects a few thousand people around the world.

Giancola said it had always been with him, but it wasn’t until his forties that it started to have a debilitating effect on his health.

“I started to have trouble walking up stairs, going up and out of a chair and the reason I ended up in a wheelchair is that when your muscles are weak your bones are weak,” Giancola said.

He had several major interruptions over the past 15 years and that is why he started using a wheelchair. Giancola believes that through several advanced therapies, he prevented the effects of Pompe disease from getting worse.

Through it all, Giancola’s will is stronger than ever.

Jerry Giancola at his post. (Spectrum News 1 Jonathon Gregg)

“You know, being in a wheelchair yourself is a great incentive and a great story to show others who come here for treatment… that life goes on and you can still do great things,” Terrilyn Green told Spectrum News 1.

Green is the Director of Volunteer and Guest Services at UofL Health. Green said volunteers had stayed at home for months during the pandemic, but since restrictions eased, volunteers like Giancola have returned to their posts.

“Having that warm, friendly face that can delight you when you walk through the door and help you get to where you’re going is absolutely a huge attribute,” Green said.

While technically Giancola is the information hub at Frazier Rehab, his favorite part about volunteering is listening.

“I really don’t like to talk about myself. I’d rather listen to you or whoever is in front of me, “he said.” I learned a long time ago that people just want to be heard. They don’t want to hear “I” or “my” or “me,” they want someone to listen to their story. ”

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