Ginny Haines says she works with the real heroes

Each year, five women are chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club for Career Women’s Week. The criteria used for choosing these women are based not only on their professional efforts, but also on the contributions they have made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Women’s Club. Sept. 8, 1998, the club name was changed and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name of Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club, with objectives to promote growth and respect of women in the workplace; improve self-esteem in all careers; educate women; and support community projects.

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Virginia “Ginny” Haines may prepare patients at Dr. Jose Silva’s office for their cancer treatments, but says she’s not the one doing all the work.

“The patients and the families are the heroes,” said Haines, a Long Island, N.Y., native who now lives in Homer City. “When you think about your life and all the problems you might have — put cancer on top of that.

“These people are not in a bubble,” she said. “They still go home and find the washing machine is broken, or something else. They still have all the problems that we have. They have all that on top of being sick. They deal with cancer 24/7.”

After graduating from high school in Long Island, Haines worked as a nurse’s aide, eventually deciding to try the profession full-time. She earned her LPN in 1975 and later, her RN from the University of Texas.
While working in Houston, Haines said three doctors at the hospital sought to create an oncology unit, and she was among the nurses who took the eight weeks of training for the new unit.

“I thought that would be something good to learn,” Haines said. “Oncology is never boring.

“Cancer affects every organ, every place in a person’s body,” she said. “It’s just unending, how many different scenarios can happen. It’s a lot of stuff to learn.”

Before coming to Punxsutawney Area Hospital in 1998, Haines worked in a West Penn Hospital satellite office. Once she came to Punxsy, Haines worked in home health with Dr. Kathy Selvaggi, who was initially at the hospital one day a week.

Because she had given chemotherapy previously, Haines was sought by
Selvaggi for her experience in oncology.

These days, Silva’s staff operates the oncology office four days a week, while Haines, Silva and another LPN travel to Kittanning Thursdays.
The technology and treatments — notably the medication — for cancer have only improved over the years, Haines said.

“When I started doing chemo, you could not do it anywhere but the hospital,” she said. “And the drugs for nausea were inadequate, and people would be so sick.”

Haines was hard-pressed to come up with an out-of-work activity, although she said she is active in her church, Cornerstone Ministries in Indiana.

“I think I’m always working,” she said. “I feel like if I’m not here, I’m thinking about here. You think about the problems (patients) have: If their scan comes out well, if they’re taking the pills you told them to take. It runs through your mind.

“Every patient is so unique; you have to adjust to their personalities,” Haines said. “Some people want to know everything (about treatment), and some want to know nothing.”

She met her husband, Jerry, in Texas, but when they visited her parents in this area, because Haines had an aunt living here, “(Jerry) thought Pennsylvania was beautiful,” and the couple relocated to the Keystone State. They have two grown sons, Ethan and Tracy, and a dog, Max.

When she was told she was one of this year’s five Career Women of the Week, Haines said she was “honored and humbled, but like I said, the patients are the heroes. I just try to do my best to take care of them, and I don’t do it on my own. God is with me. I couldn’t do it without Him.”