Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- Healing comes in many forms. For some of the tiniest and sickest babies at Palmetto Health Baptist, Michael Smyrl is a part of their healing journey.
He's been a personal touch volunteer in the neonatal intensive care unit for about 3 years. Smyrl typically volunteers on Thursdays. His responsibilities include resupplying the medical carts and rocking babies.
"The guys I play golf with, the guys I work with, they can't figure it out. I think a majority of them understand, it just catches them off guard when I first tell them," Smyrl says. Their reaction might have something to do with the fact that he was a salesman for a wholesale whiskey business for 34 years. He retired about 4 years ago.
His interest in volunteering with the NICU started after a trip to the doctor's office. "It was an article and it was talking about babies that were born early or babies that were born with drug dependency and what they go through in the NICU. One of the things that stood out to me that most is when the doctor said how well they respond to human touch as well as any kind of medical care," says Smyrl.
Even though this is what he wanted, he didn't know if he would be the best fit. Smyrl says "I didn't think I would get it because a man on this floor with young mothers have babies and breastfeeding and using breast pump machines. I didn't think there was a chance."
Thankfully for Smyrl and the team of nurses, compassion doesn't see gender, age or occupation. He says, "It was one little baby up here that had a lot of problems. He stayed up here with us for 14 months. I got pretty attached to him. And I came up here on father's day. It was a great day when he left. We found a foster family for him. I remember him especially."
For Smyrl this is about more than just volunteering, it's his way of showing gratitude. "I’m thankful for having healthy kids and I just want to do something for somebody else," says Smryl. That heart belongs to a man who's just grateful to be a small part of the miracle that is life.
More information about volunteer opportunities at Palmetto Health HERE