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Some of the great stories of the Christmas season come when generous people are generously rewarded. Sometimes it comes in a small way, like when the inspiring story of 90-year-old Jeanette Van Voorst, a volunteer at Orange City Area Health System, got picked up by media outlets all over the country. 

Then there is Heather Determann, a telemetry nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, and Karen Jones, a trauma and flight nurse for Iowa Health-Des Moines. Both are big Oprah Winfrey fans who had always wanted to see the show live. Little did they expect to be chosen for the hottest Oprah ticket ever –“Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010.” 

This is the show where the entire studio audience received thousands of dollars worth of gifts, and a 2012 Volkswagen Beetle on top of that. 

It wasn’t just luck of the draw for Determann and Jones. Audience members were chosen because of the things they have done for others (and were then allowed to bring someone with them. Jones brought her sister, while Determann brought a fellow St. Luke’s nurse. None of the audience members knew it was going to be the special show until Winfrey announced it as the segment opened). 

Both nurses have a history of giving and achieving.  Determann put off replacing her 11-year-old Chevy to cover the cost of a three-week medical mission trip to Africa, where she helped build a clinic.  Jones has been a leader in Iowa’s “Just Drive” campaign, which is advocating for drivers, particularly young ones, to pledge that they will not make calls or text when they are behind the wheel. (Winfrey has a similar campaign.) 

Like Van Voort, who worked for 38 years at the Orange City hospital before deciding to come back as a volunteer, the two Iowa nurses are a credit to themselves and their hospitals.  

Some might say Determann and Jones were just lucky.  But we are the fortunate ones — fortunate to have such dedicated and generous employees and fortunate to have the excellent hospitals necessary to attract and hold on to them.


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