Gina Frey's passion for helping and for travel led her to a job at Columbus Community Hospital more than six years ago.
Now a registered nurse at Columbus Community Hospital (CCH), Gina grew up in Shelby and is the youngest of nine siblings.
Gina's parents said she has always been a nurturing person but that she wanted to be a veterinarian first.
"When she was about 8-years-old, she says, 'Maybe I'll be a veterinarian,'" Gina's mom, Verlene Frey, said. "...And then she said something about not working with animals because 'I just hate to see them die.'"
Frey's interest turned to nursing as she went through junior and senior high school.
"I had family members, close friends that have been in the hospital. The tragedy of the people that couldn't be saved but then there were also the triumphs of some people who probably shouldn't have made it — it just inspired me, the work that was done," Gina said.
Gina earned her associate degree at Central Community College and then finished at Bellevue University with a bachelor's degree.
"The entire time that I was in college, I was between three jobs and getting my degree," Gina said.
After graduating, Gina took a couple of months to travel. Her passion for travel may have been one of the reasons she wanted to work at CCH.
"I don't know if Dr. Nila Novotny knows this, but one of the big reasons I wanted to initially work at the hospital was because I thought that was the only way I was going to be able to go on a mission trip," Gina said.
Every year or so, CCH's Novotny gathers staff from CCH and other hospitals around the country and travels around the world to administer medical care.
"She does free surgeries (for people) in third world countries that don't have the money to afford it," Gina said.
Frey said she learned about the program while in nursing school.
After graduating, while her dad was at CCH for surgery, a nurse — Lynn Muth, with whom Gina now works — told her she would be a good fit for the hospital and encouraged her to fill out an application.
Gina did, and she started working at CCH in 2014. She's been a part of the acute care unit (ACU) since the beginning but said she has also joined the intensive care unit (ICU) to challenge herself.
For better or for worse, Gina said the last year has been one of the most professionally challenging of her life, largely due to COVID-19.
"My heart just hurts from some of the things that we've had to see," Gina said.
Alongside that is a sense of pride, though — pride in the hospital and the community at how everyone has come together.
Her parents are proud of her, too.
"I think Gina will be … nursing somebody or something as long as she's able to get around and do anything, but that's just her nature," Gina's dad, Ronald Frey, said.
In 2020, Gina got a chance to participate in one of the mission trips that first attracted her to CCH.
They flew 13 hours to Dubai and then seven more hours to Zambia, she said.
"We got all the way over there and … then we couldn't leave the airport. … Every person had two giants suitcases that we put a ton of medical supplies in and we delivered them over there. It was probably one of the most expensive deliveries," Gina said, chuckling.
It was disappointing not to be able to fully fulfill that dream, but Gina was optimistic, saying there will be opportunities to go in the future.
"Right now we're just waiting for everything to slow down and figure out our new normal at the hospital," Gina said.
Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.