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Our Heroes

Name: Opal Lesse

Title: Nurse practitioner, Urology Clinic

Volunteer with: the Hope Clinic and the U-M Speakers Bureau

Opal Lesse

What does being a hero mean to you?

I feel it is a privilege to be a nurse practitioner and to have the education and opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. But I don’t see myself as a “Hero” – I just go about life doing the things that I feel need to be done.

I’m reminded of a statement made by my Tai Chi instructor – volunteering, to me, means doing the right thing, at the right time and in the right state of mind. It is taking a negative and turning it into a positive without thinking about it.

What exactly do you do when you volunteer?

Besides dispensing medication, diagnosing illness or spiritual pain, and referring to community agencies, I educate people and communicate in a language that can be understood.  My care is about relationships with the people I work with and the patients; if I am to educate and communicate, a trusting relationship must be established before the opportunity to learn is successful.

Why did you choose the Hope Clinic?

I believe in the Hope Clinic’s mission to serve all people. The staff at Hope are wonderful – they care.

What has been your most rewarding experience?

I remember one family in particular, who brought in two brothers from Africa, straight from the airport. They were dehydrated and malnourished. Through my interview, I found out that these two brothers had walked for days to get to the airport and had to hide to keep from being killed. The one thing that kept them going was the thought of coming to America and being safe and free. 

After a fluid IV, a TB test, blood work, and an appointment to return, I counted my Blessings and said my own kind of prayer. Many families come to the clinic in similar circumstances.

What motivated you to begin volunteering?

I decided that the time spent watching TV or in busy work could be better spent volunteering. To volunteer takes maybe an hour a week or and hour a month. It’s not much, and in the process I am making a difference in the world. Being a volunteer makes people happy and positive. This action has a rolling effect; people feel cared for, and then they care for each other.

In the past, I remember doing the hospital’s “Be a Nurse” program every year, going to the schools and watching the delight in the children, some of whom are becoming nurses now.

What are some of the ways you help UMHS make a difference in the community?

I am a volunteer preceptor for the U-M Nurse Practitioner Program and the Michigan State BSN Completion Program, which keeps my skills sharp and allows me to appreciate the wonderful people choosing nursing these days.  The schools need preceptors for these placements; we need nurses.

I am also a speaker for the Cancer Center, which has sent me to several different places: insurance companies, churches, physician offices, and conferences.  I believe that speaking about urologic cancers has encouraged many people to seek diagnostic testing.

In addition, I talk to nurses about how to volunteer.  They want to, but don’t know the contacts, so I give them the Hope Clinic’s number.