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Meet the hospital volunteer who put retirement on hold to touch the lives of young kids

"She's probably one of the most generous people I've ever met," said Nancy Giannasi's supervisor Amy Dickson.

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. — On the journey to healing at Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge Hospital, state-of-the-art medical care always takes the lead.

But the dedicated doctors, nurses and therapists aren't the only ones charting the course to recovery.

Nancy Giannasi is all work and no pay. She's a Ranken volunteer.

"She's probably one of the most generous people I've ever met," said her supervisor Amy Dickson.

Giannasi spent 34 years as an occupational therapist in the Special School District. She found her calling after seeing a movie from 1975.

"The Other Side of the Mountain" is about young ski champion Jill Kinmont who was paralyzed after a tragic skiing accident.

"So in this movie," Gianassi said. "They showed her in occupational therapy. They showed them putting a splint on her hand and helping her to use a utensil so she could feed herself. It was my fit. It was my fit!"

Now, after her long career, instead of closing the book she decided to write this new chapter.

"I still want to give back. I always want to make a difference," she said.

Giannasi spends most of her time helping with Ranken's Oz program.

"OZ stands for Optimization Zone," Dickson, the OZ Coordinator, said "And it serves our patient population from birth to kindergarten."

Kids are supposed to be born in a hospital, not grow up in one. But many like Jayden Clark have complex medical issues and haven't been able to go home.

"He's had a long road, "Jayden's mom Abigail Sansoucie said. "He was born prematurely. He was one pound eight ounces."

Long-term hospitalization can impact a child's development. The OZ program is based on play to let kids be kids. And through play, Nancy says kids learn.

"And when I see a child come in and start going like this," she says, while rolling her hands in a circle. "They remember. 'We're going to be singing 'Wheels on the Bus.' It's a spark. We provide repetition and a routine," Giannasi said.

"He learned to talk, to sing or read a book all of these things," Sansoucie said of her son. "He's learned how to turn a page now, he's never done that before."

Before she's done for the day, Nancy's mission of kindness becomes mobile. She wheels a cart of toys and toiletries through Ranken's hallways, going the extra mile for the parents and siblings of Ranken patients.

"To let them know we're here for you. You are not alone. I want them to know you're not alone," she said.

A beam of sunlight through clouds of adversity.

"Seeing them improve and seeing them increase their skills makes me just glow," Giannasi said. "I hope I can do this forever."

Ranken volunteer, Nancy Giannasi, showing that dedication and compassion are key ingredients in the prescription for healing.

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