How a mystery gift bloomed into a memorable gesture of gratitude

Rozanne Abramson (right) shares flower-topped pens with Sonia Boccardi (centre), Clinical Administrative Coordinator in the Operating Room, Perioperative Unit, PACU, and with Helen Kondylis, Assistant Head Nurse in Orthopedic Surgery.
Rozanne Abramson (right) shares flower-topped pens with Sonia Boccardi (centre), Clinical Administrative Coordinator in the Operating Room, Perioperative Unit, PACU, and with Helen Kondylis, Assistant Head Nurse in Orthopedic Surgery.

Handmade keepsake becomes symbol of appreciation during our CIUSSS’s Gratitude Week

Expressions of gratitude to our staff come in many forms. For Sonia Boccardi, it came wrapped in a mystery, a surprise and an unexpected reunion.

Her story began in early 2021, when Ms. Boccardi was Associate Director of our CIUSSS’s COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign. A woman entered our Décarie Square vaccination site and, grateful to be receiving her first shot, presented Ms. Boccardi with a unique gift: A pen topped with a flower. Ms. Boccardi was so touched that she kept the gift and shared the story in a social media post when she moved on from her post this past January.

“It’s a reminder of everything we’ve accomplished,” Ms. Boccardi said of the gift.

She had no reason to think she’d ever see the mystery woman again. But fate had the last word. In February, staff in the Jewish General Hospital’s Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) were tending to a patient who was recovering from knee-replacement surgery. Out of the woman’s bag came gifts for staff: pens topped with flowers.

Natalie Nava, the unit’s Assistant Head Nurse, paused. She recalled the Facebook post. “Are you the person who gave a gift like this when you got vaccinated at Décarie Square last year?”

She was. What followed was an emotional reunion. Ms. Nava called Ms. Boccardi, who rushed to Orthopedics. There, nearly a year after her first encounter with her unnamed supporter, she was reunited with Rozanne Abramson.

Ms. Abramson, a longtime schoolteacher, was a staunch believer that healthcare staff deserve to know how much they matter. She believed it in March, 2021, when she left her house for nearly the first time in a year to get her COVID-19 vaccine shot. And she believed it in February when she counted on the expertise at the JGH for knee surgery.

“These are people who are helping us get better,” she says. “They can’t be thanked enough. I’m so appreciative for what they do.”

As our CIUSSS marks Gratitude Week 2022 (April 4-11), Ms. Abramson’s gesture serves as a reminder of the important role our staff plays in the lives of so many. People show their thanks in various ways: Families write heartfelt letters, colleagues share a kind word, schoolchildren draw colourful cards.

Ms. Abramson does it by buying pens that she wraps in dark green florist tape and tops with an artificial flower. “It’s a way of saying, ‘Thank you for your service,’” she says.

Those on the receiving end feel their own sort of gratitude. “It’s like seeing a random flower blooming in a crack in the sidewalk,” says Helen Kondylis, Assistant Head Nurse in Orthopedic Surgery, who also received a flower pen. “Amid all the negative news in the world, it’s such a wonderful gesture.”

As for Ms. Boccardi, now Clinical Administrative Coordinator in the Operating Room, Perioperative Unit—PACU, she was incredulous that she’d met the woman who’d left behind the lasting gift. It felt like a circle had closed.

“I couldn’t believe we were able to make the connection. What are the odds?” she asks. “I was so moved.”

Our CIUSSS marks Gratitude Week this year with rewards and recognition for hardworking members of staff across all 34 sites. The week features prizes, new employee-focused initiatives, articles and videos. It’s a way of saying thank you to the employees of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal. Follow the activities and initiatives of Gratitude Week in The Bulletin, the daily update for CIUSSS staff, and on our social media platforms.