A career with Mercy Health has produced a lifetime of happy memories

​John Kotsiris

 

While the four walls of a hospital are key to its success, it is the unconditional passion of its staff that makes the care truly special. There's no better example of this spirit than John Kotsiris, 64, who retired in February 2014 after 42 years working at Mercy Hospital for Women.

Mr Kotsiris barely spoke a word of English when he started in the East Melbourne hospital kitchen on Friday August 20, 1971. In fact, the then 21-year-old had only just migrated to Australia from Kamaria, Greece.

"My English was not good, I knew 20 to 25 words and some phrases, but I had a dictionary and I went to school to learn the language, I really like learning,'' Mr Kotsiris said. 

After two and a half years, he became an orderly, doing any job that needed attention – from retrieving pathology, cleaning, opening doors, transferring patients and clearing rooms. It was this role the now grandfather held for the next 40 years (including the 2005 move to Heidelberg).

"There was a 200m difference between travelling from my home to East Melbourne and travelling from my home to Heidelberg, so I didn't mind that much,'' he said. "I really enjoyed my work, I believe I was working in a good place and the job suited me because I like helping people. That gives me pleasure."

"Whether it was getting blood for the theatre or pushing a trolley I felt like I was doing something important, and that made me feel satisfied."

There are also two or three moments during the four-and-a-bit decades that will always be with Mr Kotsiris, including one night during the late 1970s, when he was asked to be an interpreter for a young Greek lady who was giving birth.

"They needed me to explain to her how to have the baby, how to push, while the doctor delivered the baby,'' he said. "Five or six weeks later I was at the local newsagent and the lady was there buying a newspaper, so I said hello."

On another windy, rainy night around the same period, he remembers hearing a car horn beeping 40m away from the hospital in Gipps Street. It was a woman who had driven from Frankston to have her baby. But she had not driven fast enough and had given birth in her front seat just metres from the hospital doors.

"It was pouring down with rain outside and when we got there, the lady was holding the baby in the front seat,'' Mr Kotsiris said. "I said hold on, we're coming and we took the trolley out to her. It was dramatic."

A more recent memory was made at East Melbourne in the late 1990s when Mr Kotsiris helped wheel a lady, who was about to have an emergency caesarean, into theatre.

"When she came back 10 years later, she said to her son 'John helped take me to the theatre' and he said thank you, so I felt good about that."

He said the decision to retire was not an easy one but something he knew was right. 

"It was very difficult and on my last day I noticed some ladies were crying," he said.  "But it was the right time for me and my family."

"There were so many nice people and I couldn't have asked for anything better."

Mr Kotsiris is an example of the many Mercy Health employees who go above and beyond. Some of his former colleagues will be honoured when the Mercy Hospital for Women Staff Service Awards are held on Wednesday September 17. 

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