“What’s a nice retired guy like you doing in an Emergency Department like this?” is a conversation starter that Bob Kilton has probably heard more times than he would care to admit, but one of which he never grows weary. You know just by the way he smiles, a slight grin that sets of a mischievous twinkle in his eye, hinting of a good story yet to come.
Ten years ago, Kilton was a vibrant 72, still enjoying a successful full-time career in sales. Always on the go, the Stratford resident admits he hadn’t seriously entertained thoughts of retirement until the day his wife broached the subject. “One day, out of the blue, she asked me, ‘Don’t you think you should retire so we can spend more time together?’” he recalls. “I thought, yes, it’s time.”
Time was something the Kiltons had on their side. They were healthy, active, and with their son and his family in Seattle and their daughter and her husband in New York, more visits and travel were a welcome addition to their agenda. Kilton, though, needed a bit more. More importantly, he wanted to make good use of his time now that it was truly his own. He could make time for his wife, his family and golf, but the one thing he didn’t have time for was excuses.
“We all have plenty of time,” he says. “I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t have time for this or that. It’s how you use your time that matters.”
Kilton chose to volunteer his time at Bridgeport Hospital, specifically the Emergency Department (ED). “People ask me all the time why I would want to volunteer at Bridgeport Hospital. My son was one of them. I found out that there is an outdated, awful impression of what people think Bridgeport Hospital is like. It’s interesting, because a lot of folks are Bridgeport natives and even they have this misperception of the hospital,” he says.
“They think that because [the hospital] is in the city that the ED sees nothing but gunshot wounds and victims of gang violence. That is something out of the movies, not reality.”
Even as a volunteer, Kilton holds the hospital dear for the care it dispenses to the community. He has made it his mission to change the public’s perception. The volunteer who transports patients from the ED to Radiology, Obstetrics or to a patient room is a major advocate.
“The people who come here, to the ED, are like anybody else. They are from different neighborhoods, and economic, educational and cultural backgrounds. Some are having hard luck. It doesn’t matter if they are young, old, rich, poor. They are people who need medical care and attention. They are nervous when they come to the ED. I always assure them that they are in a good place where people will take good care of them.”
After 10 years in the ED, Bob has witnessed Bridgeport Hospital and the ED go through extensive growth as well as changes to improve patient wait times. “I’m the last man standing of the volunteers from my class. I can do surgery now. Tat’s my plan,” he jokes.
Kilton is so supportive of Bridgeport Hospital’s efforts that he wanted to provide for the ED in his will. He is a charter member of the Foundation’s recently established Susan Hubbell Legacy Society, which recognizes those who have remembered the organization in their estate plans.
“The ED always seems to be running out of something, the need is great. So I wanted to find a way to help them get what they need – stretchers, supplies – those things that make a difference every day.”
Any good salesman knows what his customer needs, and Kilton is prepared to do what it takes to help the ED team and their patients.
“The ED isn’t for everyone. I think Bob likes the excitement, the energy,” says Keri Bill, RN, Assistant Nurse Manager. “Bob works every Monday, and sometimes Fridays, year-round. Every now and then he’ll show up on a day he’s not scheduled – if it’s raining and his golf game got canceled or something like that – to see if we need help. He’ll do anything you ask him to; and he’ll actually go out of his way and look for things to do.”
Meredith Fiumidinisi, RN, Associate Director of Nursing, Emergency Department, agrees. She points out that Kilton is quiet but can talk to anyone. “He just knows how to connect with people,” she says.
“I truly like people and it’s one of my goals to try to make them smile when I can,” Kilton says. “I know it can be tough when in the ED, so when I do, I know I’ve been able to help in my own way.”