By Marcy SanchezJune 7, 2018
As visitors walk through William Beaumont Army Medical Center on Fridays they may notice the white coats of doctors, the multi-colored scrubs of nurses and technicians, and the business-casual attire of other professionals at the hospital. One clothing article may stand out to guests. One that sports an American flag on the front with the phrase, "IN THIS FAMILY NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE."
The shirt pays homage to a member of the Environmental Services team whose life changed nearly two years ago with some worrying news.
"We've always been very tight knit as a family, always gotten along, it's a team effort whether our boss is here or not," said Ramon Gomez, a quality assurance evaluator at the unit. "We fix problems, nobody ever fails."
The notion of never letting anyone fail was tested two years ago when Gomez was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, a stage in cancer where it had metastasized, or spread, beyond the lungs into other areas of the body.
"I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in September of 2016," said Gomez, a Las Cruces, New Mexico native and U.S. Navy veteran. "I'm stable, but stage IV is terminal."
A year after being diagnosed, Gomez's treatment plan included the removal of his left kidney, where the cancer had spread, and ongoing chemotherapy. To aid in his battle against cancer, his coworkers began brainstorming ways to help.
The department, responsible for the hospital's linen, housekeeping and transportation needs, consists of only 22 individuals, each willing to attest the camaraderie within the unit.
"This is who we are, this is what we do here, we help each other out," said Hector Hernandez, transportation assistant, WBAMC. "Everybody here supports each other."
In 2017, as Gomez prepared for a trip to Houston for surgery, coworkers scrambled to make his trip as comfortable and stress-free as possible.
"He was planning to drive (to Houston) and have his sister in law drive him back in a car," said Hernandez.
In lieu of Gomez's vehicle, coworkers rented him a mobile home for his use to relieve additional logistical problems during his trip to Houston.
"My department has been like family to me. They've been there through everything," said Gomez, who has been employed at WBAMC for 10 years. "They've had my back and have done for me unlike anyone else."
When he returned, the unit continued to show support for Gomez by designing and wearing a t-shirt every Friday to support his recovery after the surgery. Even after Gomez returned to work, the group continued to don the show of support at the end of the work week.
"Now in the hospital they are asking us, 'Where'd you get the shirt?', 'What does it mean?'. We start telling them, and they say I want a shirt," said Hernandez, who has become acquainted with Gomez when he began his fight with cancer. "It's been a year and a half of support. It's awesome, just awesome for us to help and be part of something for Ramon."
The group continues to support Gomez's recovery via social media support, activities, and continued wear of the t-shirt supporting his recovery. The group has even had several redesigns of the shirt, catching the eye of local military leaders in the process.
The show of support for Gomez has been effective in increasing morale, and Gomez's own recovery as his cancer continues to be stable.
"To keep stable I'm taking care of my diet, doing chemo daily until who knows," said Gomez. "I do watch myself, my diet and I had to give up a lot of foods that I like, and my friends watch me too."
Until recently, Gomez continued to travel to a cancer center in Houston every four months, but this past February he was told he wouldn't need to return until 2019. While he continues his recovery, the group has continued to support Gomez not only helping him get through a difficult time, but increasing camaraderie and uplifting morale throughout the whole department.
"They have been my recovery because they haven't let me get depressed, they've been there even if I have a lot of complications, they've been there," said Gomez. "I wouldn't want to work any place else, or have any other friends."