Charlotte nurse gets national attention for helping others

By Joe DePriest

It’s part of a “paying it forward” chain of generosity spun around tragedies.

In April, registered nurse Nancy James, 39, asked co-workers at Carolinas Medical Center’s intensive care unit to chip in to buy pizza for ICU nurses at Massachusetts General Hospital’s medical intensive unit. They raised $126.

Meanwhile, the Mass General emergency department staff had sent pizza to the emergency department of Hillcrest Baptist Hospital in Waco, Texas, where patients had been treated after the explosion of a fertilizer plant April 17.

Trace Arnold, who owns a barbecue restaurant in Frisco, Texas, heard about what the Boston nurses did and flew up to Boston serve 250 emergency department personnel a Texas-style dinner that included ribs, brisket, potato salad and beans.

When he got home, Arnold learned from national websites such as CNN about James’ connection to all of this – and determined to recognize her in Charlotte.

Known as the “Rib Whisperer,” Arnold travels with the History Channel’s 10,000-mile, 90-day, 13-city Cross-Country Cookout Tour. He was coming to Saturday’s History 300 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. On Thursday, Arnold was at a surprise event for James at CMC. Charlotte’s Fuel Pizza provided lunch for James and her staff, and Arnold gave James six tickets to Saturday’s race.

For him, coming to see her in the Queen City was important.

“Nurse Nancy started this whole thing in Charlotte,” said Arnold, 46. “I wanted to bring this full circle. I did not want her good deed to go unnoticed.”

Arnold also helped in the aftermath of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. The owner of a mobile barbecue restaurant, Ultimate Smoker and Grill, and the stationary restaurant 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House fed 6,000 people in three days.

“On the second day of 18 hours, I was feeling pretty whooped,” Arnold recalled.

When a volunteer told him about her husband working two 48-hour stints at the local hospital, “I said, ‘I ain’t tired. Let’s keep going,’ ” Arnold said.

Long hours didn’t matter. It was good to give back, Arnold said.

Meeting James in Charlotte, he found her wary of the limelight.

“She’s very stoic,” he said. “She works hard, cares about what’s she’s doing and about others.”

For James, stepping up to help the Boston medical workers came naturally. In 1997, when she lived in Grand Forks, N.D., and lost everything in a flood, the Salvation Army and other agencies came to the aid of her family. She never forgot that generosity.

And she learned Saturday that Arnold was involved in that relief effort, feeding 7,000 people, including her mother and sister.

Reaching out to Boston “was just something I had to do,” James said. “And it’s something anybody can do.”

Meanwhile, James and five co-workers went to Saturday’s race – her first.

“It’s crazy,” she said in the early afternoon. “But so far, it’s fun.”

Source: Charlotte Observer

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