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Catonsville woman volunteered more than 25,000 hours at St. Agnes Hospital

Wearing high heels did not seem to slow Fumiko Campbell as the Catonsville resident moved along the polished floors of St. Agnes Hospital at a pace somewhere between a jog and a walk last week.

It's probably not what the doctors had in mind when they operated on the native of Japan for a broken hip and femur only eight months ago.

Campbell, who declined to be more specific about her age than "80-question mark," has a lot to do.

Campbell said she shows up at the hospital on Caton Avenue to volunteer as member of the hospital's auxiliary every day, often getting to her office as early as 4 a.m. and staying until midnight.

"When I commit to do something, I want to do it, no matter what," Campbell said, the pride palpable in her voice.

After work, Campbell cleans her 19-room house, grabs a few hours of shut-eye, then resumes the her hectic pace the next day.

Campbell has hardly stopped moving since she committed her life to helping others while living in Japan during World War II.

That commitment led her to become a nurse in her native country and eventually work at St. Agnes Hospital, where she celebrated her 30th anniversary on March 1 with a celebration attended by 120 people.

For more than a decade, Campbell worked as an emergency room technician at St. Agnes, arriving for her evening shift an hour early to ensure all the devices were set up and working properly, she said.

The day after Campbell retired from that position about 13 years ago, she began volunteering in the hospital's auxiliary, where she now serves as president.

Since retiring, Campbell had amassed 25,300 volunteer hours at the hospital through 2011.

That number doesn't include her time at 18 other places where she volunteers, including the Arbutus Senior Center, Arbutus United Methodist Church and Kennedy-Krieger Institute in Baltimore.

A person working 40 hours a week for 10 years, without taking a single vacation or sick day, would amass fewer than 21,000 hours.

Arbutus Senior Center director Susan Patry recalled Campbell volunteering every Tuesday to put on a lunch program called Eating Together.

Once the center had enough volunteers, Campbell backed off and allotted her time to other causes, Patry said.

"She's a very talented lady and it's so great she shares herself the way she does," Patry said. "I would love to have her come back and help us with other things."

Patry knows Campbell is busy, but said the residents would appreciate the origami classes she has taught while volunteering other places.

Giving what she has

Since her husband, Arthur, passed away 13 years ago and her only son, Thomas, 58, has his own family, Campbell has plenty of time to give.

"After my husband died, I don't have anything to do at home," Campbell said. "I do not want to sit at home and feel sorry for myself. I want to use my free time for somebody who need it."

Campbell met her husband when he was a patient in the hospital in Japan where she worked as a nurse.

In 1953, they married. The couple spent the next 26 years living in various places around the world.

Her husband's job with the government allowed them to return to the United States to visit his parents in Buffalo, N.Y., for two months before moving to a new international city for three more years.

In 1979, Campbell was able to finally move to the United States and fulfill her dream of living in the country that she had seen so many times in cowboy films. They moved to downtown Baltimore because that's where her son went to dental school. They settled in Catonsville about seven years after that, she said.

From the first time Campbell entered the United States, she loved it and that passion still burns as strongly as ever, she said.

In her office, the table runner's stars and stripes match the scarf Campbell wore March 8. Her ensemble also included a red cap with a St. Agnes Hospital button that she has worn for the past dozen years.

The cap is a silent protest that began after she testified before the state Senate in Annapolis soon after her husband died of a heart attack.

When her husband suffered his heart attack, paramedics brought him to St. Agnes. But he needed open-heart surgery, which the hospital was not permitted to do, Campbell said.

St. Agnes provides a variety of cardiovascular services, according to hospital spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver, but it does not have a certification for open-heart surgery.

Campbell said her husband was taken to another hospital, but died before the surgery could be performed.

She said he would not have died if the procedure was allowed to be done at St. Agnes. So shortly after his death, she said she joined a group that filled two buses for a trip to Annapolis to ask that St. Agnes be allowed to do this procedure.

Her testimony, often through tears, prompted one senator to tell her she did a great job, Campbell said.

Though confident the Senate would rule in the group's favor, Campbell vowed to wear the hat until the hospital received the certification.

"We still don't have it, so I have to wear this cap," she said.

Campbell and her son set up an annual scholarship in her husband's name for a Catonsville High School student. It has been awarded every year except last year, when the money was donated to tsunami relief in Japan.

Commitment to others

Campbell has so many people ask her for help that she took the nameplate off her office door in the hospital in the hopes that people would not be able to find her.

Still the calendar she carries has every day filled.

To keep her appointments in order, Campbell color codes her days with highlighter.

Monday might be highlighted in blue, Tuesday in yellow, Wednesday and Thursday in orange and a sticky note hangs off the spot for Friday.

Campbell gives as much time as she has and always does so with a positive attitude, said Steve Morrisey, the general manager of food service operations at St. Agnes.

"She's always such a positive influence. You can't help but capture the same spirit she carries," said Morrisey, who works with Campbell for hospital events.

Morrisey said he has arrive early at the hospital to prepare for a 7 a.m. event, only to find that Campbell had beat him by a couple of hours to set up the gift tables and assemble marketing materials, he said.

"She's one of those people who's always up front and very supportive in any way she can, particularly with raising funds for the hospital," Morrisey said.

During her 30 years of service at the hospital, Campbell has accumulated numerous awards.

Campbell pointed to several plaques on the hallway walls off the main lobby of the hospital and mentioned a few others with a matter-of-fact tone.

When asked how the awards made her feel, Campbell responded with a smile, "Beautiful."

Campbell said she appreciates the awards, but enjoys that she can give back to people in need.

"I'm so happy that I can do," Campbell said. "I do not work for award. I work for whatever person that need it."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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