When Ronya Ward began her job as the renal social worker in July of 2007, she was no stranger to the halls of Cardinal Glennon. At age 10, Ronya was diagnosed with a kidney disorder called Lupus Nephritis. A referral brought her to Cardinal Glennon, where she was placed under the care of Ellen Wood, MD, Director of Pediatric Nephrology. Much of Ronya’s teenage years were spent at Glennon due to her illness, and at 19, Ronya suffered a mild stroke that once again brought her back.
“Even though I was older and in college, Dr. Wood agreed to continue treating me,” Ward says. Ronya temporarily lost walking and speaking capabilities because of the stroke, and suddenly a task as common as feeding herself became a challenge.
A Change of Course
Ironically, at the time of her stroke, Ronya was entering her sophomore year at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she was studying occupational therapy.
“I was in the process of studying occupational therapy, and then suddenly I was a patient going through occupational therapy,” Ward says.
Going through rehabilitation, during which Ronya had to re-learn everything from walking to buttoning a button, showed her that perhaps occupational therapy was not the right career for her.
“Being a patient and knowing how frustrating it was for me to be incapable of performing simple tasks, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for the therapist. I did want to go into the health field and hopefully work with children. Studying Social Work seemed like a great alternative.”
Ward always wanted to work for a hospital and she thought Glennon was an excellent place to apply, considering her history. Though she had just finished college and was entering the working world, her life experience made her the best candidate for the job. Ten years full of hospital visits and stays provided Ward with an incomparable wealth of experience and knowledge. Originally hired as a part-time employee, Ward soon became the renal social worker, which had her working side by side with Dr. Wood, her former physician.
“Working alongside Dr. Wood is great! Sometimes when I have a problem I want to go and talk to her about it. I sometimes forget I work with her now and that we’re professionals, rather than me being her patient.”
Nonetheless, for Ward, whose energy could supply the entire city, Cardinal Glennon seems to have always been the right fit. Once a patient and now a social worker here, it seems Ward has come full circle.
“I love my job because I can talk to patients and really relate to them,” she said. “At another hospital I would’ve just been a worker who used to be sick, but at Glennon I am a worker who used to be a patient, and I know exactly what the patients are going through, because I went through it too.”