Skip to main content

Getting health care right

MyStory at Highmark Health: Meet Don, John and Kate

With our MyStory video series, we’re sharing an inside look at the lives, experiences and passions of people who are part of the Highmark Health community. These videos were created by the talented members of the Highmark Health video team: Richard “Zoot” Dwyer, Tanner Rose, and Josh Elsass.

More than 43,000 people work at Highmark Health, and many more work with us through vendors and other partnerships. But no one is defined solely by their job title. From the challenges they’ve faced to the dreams they’ve chased, the members of the Highmark Health family all have a story to tell.

Meet Don: Health Care on the Go Mobile Unit

“I see some people that carry the weight of the world when they come on the mobile unit. If we can make that a better day, we’ve done a great thing and provided a service you couldn’t buy. I’m a helper.”

[View MP4]

When you're driving you see a lot of people. I see some people that carry the weight of the world when they come on the mobile unit. And if we can make that a better day, we've done a great thing. We provide a service you couldn't buy. I'm a helper — that's the truth.

My name is Don Waltenbaugh. I'm a driver/field manager for GMR Marketing out of New Berlin, Wisconsin. And I'm a driver on the Health Care On the Go mobile unit.

This is my eighth year with Highmark. It’s not very often you get to work with your brother, your family, your hero in life. Delbert A. Waltenbaugh. Donald A. Waltenbaugh. It's a unique thing. It's something that most people will never in their lifetime get to experience. We have a tremendous amount of fun, and I get to do it every time I go to work, which is a real blessing.

Before each event we inspect the truck for any defects and make sure we have no flat tires or anything, and it's safe to go up and down the highway.

[Delbert Waltenbaugh speaking]
Morgantown here we come.

[Don Waltenbaugh speaking]
We're going to be going into West Virginia a good bit as well as the rural communities of western Pennsylvania and getting those people who have no way to get back to the hospital or haven't come for their follow-up care, so we can come to them and provide them a very unique service that not too many other insurance providers would provide for them. We get great satisfaction knowing that we made a difference in that little community at that time.

I am married to an amazing woman, Kim. Her cousin said I should call her some night because she's up all night and her husband had recently passed away and she doesn’t sleep. And you’re up driving all night, so you might as well give her a call. It'll help you stay awake and keep you company. And I did. And I'm pretty sure we talked for months — three months maybe — before we actually saw each other face to face. Kim was blessed to have a girl Chloe, who is now 19, and a son Austin who is now 24.

I have some pictures of my dad and I. It was at a Christmas time — that next year he actually passed away so that was the last Christmas with our dad. Our family has suffered a good bit of turmoil, a lot of tragedy over the years. In 1988 I was in an industrial accident. I was in an above-ground explosion and suffered third-degree burns over seventy percent of my body, and spent months and months in the burn unit at Lubbock, Texas. Your brain never lets your body know how bad you are. Those people that work in the burn units all over the United States are the most amazing people, really dedicated, and it takes so much to see what they see on a daily basis. They have a thing called Job’s Suit — it's a very specialized piece of torture equipment, as I call it. It's called a pressure garment, and it's made up of woven gum bands. It's very uncomfortable. I wore mine 23 out of 24 hours a day for 18 months, and life is very challenging, very, very challenging at that point. You have a host of emotions going on. Blank months ago you were as strong as an ox, a do-what-I want-to-do guy, and now you're depending on everybody for everything. So that's why then the occupational therapy and physical therapy were so important, because I needed to get my sense of independence back. I spoke with burn victims shortly after they come home, and there's very few things that people could do in life and say I know what you're going through, I was there, this will get better, you will overcome all this. Today, I have my scars which I carry with me every day, but I don't let them define me. Via the backing of the Lord and the backing of your family, even the most painful thing, you'll do it, you'll go through it, you'll suffer through it, and you'll prevail. That's what we're here to do.

I'm more handsome but he has more hair.

[Delbert Waltenbaugh speaking]
Yeah I do.

Meet John: Senior Security Coordinator

Six years in the military, including 10 months in Afghanistan, taught John a lot about leadership and teamwork. Now he helps keep the company and its employees safe as part of the “911 center for Highmark.”

[View MP4]

The military definitely, for anyone, it gives you confidence. They push you to a limit you don't know you can get to, and I think everybody has that limit, they just won't try it. In the military you don't have a choice. You learn a lot about leadership. That's what the military is built off of — leadership, camaraderie, teamwork. A lot of characteristics you take from the military and you can use anywhere in life.

My name is John Baranski. I'm a senior security coordinator at Highmark, and I've been here just under three years. We manage the access control system, which controls your Highmark ID badge. Any issues with that we monitor that. We can see any door and lock all through Highmark. We install new, we repair, we upgrade. All the alarms, like fire alarms and door alarms, they all come to us, so we respond to those and we track those. We're kind of like a 911 center for Highmark. I work with a lot of departments. I meet a lot of new people every day and not every day is the same. I enjoy that.

My mom, who is also a Highmark employee in Community Affairs, I see her every once in a while and we have lunch together. I think she likes having me here.

When I was a kid I always wanted to be a police officer or a firefighter, something along those lines. I never thought I'd join the military. When I was younger my oldest sister Dara had a rare tumor on her kidney that burst, and she had cancer as a freshman in high school. She's had three kidney transplants since then. My mother was a donor and after ten years the kidney started failing, and my other sister Caitlin and I both got tested, and Caitlin was a match and she gave my sister her kidney. The kidney did not work. A year later they found a donor. That was about a year and a half ago, and she's been doing very well. It was pretty crazy.

When I was in eighth grade my father was diagnosed with leukemia, and he had a long battle. You know, I think when he passed, I just, I had to be the man. For me, I wanted to prove myself, and without having him there was difficult. You know, I wanted to be part of something big. I knew nothing about the military, I just showed up one day and decided to join. I did six years with the Pennsylvania National Guard with the Army. I was an infantryman based out of Alpha Company 1st 110th Infantry in Indiana, PA. I spent about 10 months in Afghanistan in 2010. I was a turret gunner for the convoys, so I was the guy that sticks out of the top of the truck. I was the lead truck and we were at a site where a school was being built. We were coming down the road, and it's hard to see, especially in all that dirt. They bury an IED in the road and we drove over it. It hit the truck and it shot me up out of the turret, and when my safety harness caught, it threw me into the back of it and slammed my back. Minor injury — could have been way worse, and you know I'm very thankful for that. It was a rough deployment, but compared to many others it was nowhere near as bad.

I think about my deployment probably every day. You definitely miss the brotherhood. I don't think you'll find a bond like that in a workplace no matter where you go. You know, I love my co-workers now, but when you're in that type of situation and you're with those people every day, yeah, it's something you can't really explain until you experience it yourself. You miss the excitement and the adrenaline rush. It's something I'll never forget and I'll never take for granted. My experience, I try and use that to go forward with my career and in my personal life. Aside from marrying my wife, joining the military was the best decision I've made.

I was home from Afghanistan not even a week and I was out on the South Side and I met Lindsey, who I had known in high school, and I started talking to her and got her number, and I ended up marrying her four years later. She was a big part of helping with my adjustment home. My wife and I bought the house that I grew up in. My mother lived in there when she was younger and my grandmother lived in there when she was younger, so the house has been in our family for a very long time.

I'm very thankful where I'm at in life right now. We've had some struggles with our family, but you have to take those negative things and make them positive. It's definitely what I try and do.

Meet Kate: Prehospital Care Coordinator

From creating an award-winning health and wellness program for her fellow EMS providers, to serving as a paramedic, to her job at Allegheny Health Network, Kate lives her childhood dream of being a care provider every day in every way.

[View MP4]

Last year my husband and I were in a commercial for Allegheny Health Network and the commercial actually aired during the Super Bowl halftime, the local spot. We didn't even see it — people started text messaging us and saying, did I just see you in a commercial? We were, like, I don't know, maybe you did.

My name is Kate Lambert and I'm a pre-hospital care coordinator for Allegheny Health Network, where I've been working for almost five years. I enjoy interacting with the EMS services that bring patient to West Penn Hospital where I’m based. That's a large part of my job, helping them to restock supplies, answering any questions that they have, and providing follow-up. It gives me the chance to be right there, right in the action of what's going on at West Penn.

One of my greatest accomplishments I feel is that I now park in the gravel parking lot at West Penn. The gravel lot is right across the street from the hospital, so it's, you know, the closest. Might not seem like a big deal to everybody, but to me that's a pretty big deal.

Last year I got a grant from the Highmark Foundation for a program called Mission Wellness, and it's a health and wellness program specifically for EMS providers. You know, we're taking care of other people, but we often neglect taking care of ourselve. So it helps them to overcome the challenges that they face while on duty and, you know, not being able to always sit down and have a meal. For my efforts with that grant, I received an award — the Allegheny County EMS Champion Award. It was very nice, especially since my coworkers were the ones who nominated me.

Initially what got me interested in being a paramedic was, around the time I was four or five years old, my father was a volunteer EMT, and he would come home Wednesday night, you know, after his shift, with this really cool jumpsuit on, white jumpsuit. I thought, you know, he was my hero, it just always stuck with me up until later on, when I'm few years older, and my friend and I started our own rescue company for animals. We would put backpacks on and stuff Band-aids and gauze and stuff in there and venture out in the woods and look for hurt and sick and injured animals. We didn't have too many customers — as you can imagine, like, oh, there's a bird with an injured wing, let me wrap that up for you, go ahead.

During my senior year of high school, my grandmother became very ill, and I went up to Cape Cod to take care of her until she passed away. I had a lot of experience with the EMS as my grandma was ill. They made a huge impact on me and they were always very comforting and very kind to my grandmother. So I knew that was what I wanted to do.

When I moved back to Pittsburgh I also wanted to stay active as a paramedic on the truck, so doing that I actually met my husband. I finally told him that I had a huge crush on him. To my surprise he had the same feelings that I did. So lucky me. And I have the chance to work with him as my partner. Patients get a kick out of that. My husband loves camping, loves music festivals, so it's, like, perfect. I married the right guy. You know, he enthusiastically joins me on all these, we call them, adventures.

It’s like a little house here. My co-workers — I consider them to be like my second family. As long as they have down time and we're not on a call, we cook together. We have a garden that we planted that’s outside. We like to get the fresh tomatoes and cook sauce. We get the chance to watch TV sometimes, do our paperwork. As soon as the call comes in, we drop everything and we respond.

You know, a lot of times I look around and I see pictures and I see memories on the wall, and you see their loved ones, and you realize this isn't just a “patient,” this is a person. Putting, you know, a heart with that patient and memories with that patient and making them human, it makes you a better care provider.

Like what you see? There’s more where that came from.

Follow Highmark Health on social:

A national health and wellness organization as well as the second largest integrated delivery and financing system in America, Highmark Health and our diversified portfolio of businesses employ more than 43,000 talented people who proudly serve millions of Americans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Questions or comments?