‘It was like medicine to me’

Sampson reflects on volunteering at Piedmont Henry following mini-stroke

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Felton Sampson of Stockbridge said a recent health scare temporarily kept him from doing what he loves most – bringing smiles to the faces of people around him.

“That was my ministry. That was my gift -- making people happy and making them smile,” said Sampson, 65.

Felton Sampson has been a volunteer at Piedmont Henry Hospital since 2001. Special photo

Now, however, he finds fulfillment in the very place where his life took an unexpected turn just a few short months ago.

Sampson, a retired MARTA electrician, suffered a stroke in June of last year at one of stations for the metro-Atlanta rail system. He said it was not the first time something like this had happened.

“I had what is called a TIA (transient ischemic attack), which is a mini stroke, but I’ve had many,” said Sampson.

Sampson was rushed to Piedmont Henry Hospital for treatment. It was there, he said, that doctors began to assess the after-effects of his mini-stroke.

“I lost my speech and my memory, and something happened on the right side of my body. I lost strength,” he said. “I stayed in the hospital, like, three days, and the fourth day they let me come home.”

Sampson noted that early in his recovery, he had difficulty speaking or recognizing his family, with the exception of his wife Andrea. He said the medical team at Piedmont Henry were instrumental in returning a sense of normalcy to his life.

“I learned how to use the computer again, they gave me assignments and tested my memory,” he said.

Sampson, who retired in 2001, underwent six weeks of rehabilitation, which included occupational, physical and speech therapy.

He also, at the urging of the medical staff at Piedmont Henry, began volunteering at the hospital as a way to interact with more people, said Piedmont Henry Communications Specialist Joycelyn Osei.

“To help him gain back his confidence after weeks of speech rehabilitation therapy, Felton’s speech therapist encouraged him to start doing the things he used to enjoy again, and for him, that meant giving back to others,” said Osei. “So two months ago, he returned to the hospital, but this time as a volunteer to help people get through tough times and put a smile on their face. They just encouraged him to get out there and do the things he loves. He loves to talk, and he loves making people feel good, so volunteering here was probably the best thing for him to do.”

Sampson said volunteering at the hospital was a different kind of therapy for him.

“It was like medicine to me,” he said. “I went through volunteering to build up my speech and confidence again.”

Osei added that the hospital is seeking more volunteers – including former patients with a “servant’s heart” like Sampson, who can use their own experiences to benefit others.

“As you know, our volunteers play a huge role in the service that we provide in our day to day operations here,” said Osei. “We would definitely not be complete without them, that’s for sure. With Felton and his story, it’s very inspiring to hear and we’re very happy to have him here. We’re always looking for people who are willing to give back to others.”

These days, Sampson is progressing well in his recovery, as evidenced by his hearty laugh and upbeat demeanor. He said he is grateful for the efforts of everyone who assisted in his therapy, and everything that led to his opportunity to share his story with others at the hospital.

“The things I went through in life were like a test to me,” he said. “I got my victory -- several times.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities at Piedmont Henry, call the hospital’s Auxiliary at 678-604-5202 or visit www.piedmont.org.