Based in Richmond, Va, Catherine is a freelance writer specializing in stories about the arts, parenting, health and wellness, aging, and fascinating people.

Sharing a Smile

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Harle Jackson is no stranger to hospitals. He has been treated for cancer three times – fortunately he is now cancer-free – and has undergone several surgeries. For him, volunteering at Augusta Health’s Heart and Vascular Center’s Welcome Desk is a natural fit.

Because of his health challenges, Jackson can empathize with the patients walking into the hospital.

When you’ve been through situations,” Jackson says, “you know what to say, what’s on their mind and what they’re dealing with.

He felt fear and anxiety himself in 2003 when he visited Augusta Health for a heart catheterization. “When I walked in,” Jackson says, “a male nurse took my hand and explained everything they were doing.” That simple interaction made a significant impact on Jackson. “It really touched me,” he says. “He made me feel like I was the only person in the world that day.”

That nurse was Mark Masonheimer, BSN, RN, now the Director of Cardiovascular Services. Masonheimer’s willingness to take the time to help Jackson through his procedure contributed to Jackson’s desire to give back. Though Masonheimer made a significant impact on him, Jackson never thought he would see his nurse again because Masonheimer had planned to move to Florida to care for a sick family member.

He never forgot Masonheimer’s kindness, though. About eight years ago, when he retired from his career in corporate accounting, Jackson began volunteering at August Health. When the Heart and Vascular Center reopened five years ago, Jackson moved over into the new facility. Patients come in not knowing where to go, so, with a smile on his face, Jackson helps direct them, sometimes even riding the elevator with them to their destination.

At one point after he began volunteering, Jackson met a kind staff person. The staff member looked familiar, but it wasn’t until Jackson went home and talked to his wife that he realized it was Masonheimer, the nurse who had helped him through his procedure years before. Masonheimer had moved back to the area, and the two men reconnected. When Jackson underwent recent surgery, Masonheimer, whom Jackson calls his “guardian angel,” helped him through it and called Jackson several times afterwards to check on him.

As a volunteer, Jackson thrives from the opportunity to do for others what Masonheimer has done for him. “I just love what I do,” Jackson says. “Just knowing that I’m doing something to help someone else gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling.”

Because of his commitment to Augusta Health, Jackson also now trains other volunteers as the service representative of the Heart and Vascular Department.

Although his work does not pay monetarily, Jackson says it provides way more in emotional benefits: “Knowing that I’ve helped somebody, eased their burden and put a smile on their face makes me feel so good.”

Link to original publication at

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