Renee Czarnowski describes herself as someone who has always wanted to help, so it’s no surprise that her first job was as a medical assistant in Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s cardiology department. That was 23 years ago and she’s still here.
But Czarnowski’s first visit to Lahey wasn’t her first day on the job.
In 1980, Czarnowski was the first patient to visit the Lahey Emergency Department soon after the then-Lahey Clinic’s move from Boston to Burlington. She doesn’t remember the incident that brought her to the ED, or the visit, however, since she was only two years old at the time.
One day, when Czarnowski’s mother was sick, Czarnowski was eager to take care of her. When her mother asked for a glass of orange juice, Czarnowski obliged and rushed to help her mother.
“She said ‘you were so excited to bring me that orange juice that you tripped and fell and the glass broke and cut your hand,'” Czarnowski said.
Czarnowski’s only memories of the injury are what her mother told her and the small scar on her left hand from the glass. The Billerica native doesn’t even know how many stitches she received when she was in the ED.
“My mother said they still had the tarping down when we came in, but of course they had to admit me,” said Czarnowski.
It was only fitting that everything came full circle for Czarnowski when she accepted her job at Lahey in 1995. For more than two decades, she’s developed close friendships with many of her colleagues. Her family is so loyal to Lahey that even her mother, who now lives in Maine, drives two and a half hours to Burlington for appointments with her specialists.
“I had wanted to work here as long as could remember,” said Czarnowski.
To this day, Czarnowski jokes with her longtime colleagues about being the first ED patient, but she says it’s tougher to get newer physicians to think her claim is true.
“When I tell them, they don’t believe me,” she said.
Even though she has the scar to prove it.