Meaningful Engagement: How Road Warrior Sheila Grumbach Gives Back to Her Community
Sheila Grumbach, Interim Director of Perioperative Services, couldn’t wait to see her brother’s face when she surprised him.
This past January, Leroy Grumbach II attended the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Awards program put on by the Colorado Springs Chapter of the Gospel Music Workshop of America, Inc. (GMWA), blissfully unaware that his sister nominated him for their Trailblazer award.
“In 2021, my brother took over as general manager for Advance Auto Parts in Denver, and he immediately began doing things to help engage and connect the community with the local police,” Grumbach said.
For example, instead of giving a ticket for a broken taillight, an officer would give a motorist a voucher to Advance Auto to get it replaced. Grumbach II collaborated with police to sponsor a motorcycle show where the community could come out and get to know the officers that protect their community. He also organized a Diaper Party for which local sponsors donated diapers, baby formula, and related items to give away in February.
Not only was Grumbach II getting recognized for his community contributions, but he was also receiving the award from his sister, who, as far as he knew, was hard at work on her interim assignment in California.
But after she presented him with the award, she got a surprise of her own: she was also presented with a Trailblazer award.
“It was totally unexpected. I was all shades of red,” Grumbach remembers, laughing.
It was well-deserved. In addition to being a retired Lt. Colonel, she is the Director of Operations for GMWA, was recently re-appointed to the Colorado Sickle Cell Anemia Advisory Committee, newly appointed as Parliamentarian to the National Council of Negro Women-Denver Section, and received the Alameda Health System Culture of Safety Innovation Award in May of last year, and a Culture of Safety Leadership Award in October. She also served two terms as the regional director of the Southwest Region Chi Eta Phi Sorority, a professional nursing organization, and is the Communications Director for the Ella Mae Branson Sickle Cell Association (EMBSCA).
All this, in addition to being a fantastic interim director placed by Whitman Partners at Highland Hospital.
“As a healthcare professional, I think it’s incredibly important for us to know the community’s needs so we can adjust our support for them,” Grumbach said.
Even though every single organization Grumach devotes her time to is important to her, sickle cell research is closest to her heart. Notably, EMBSCA, a Colorado Springs organization that gives local support to those impacted by sickle cell disease. Their mission is to “advocate for and enhance our Southern Colorado membership’s ability to improve the quality of health, life, and services for individuals, families, and communities affected by sickle cell disease and related conditions.”
EMBSCA provides patient navigators (volunteers who help steer patients through the healthcare system), travel reimbursement for healthcare appointments, and financial support to parents who need to stay in the Denver area while their children receive treatment.
Their annual Christmas Support Group and Party provides much-needed mutual support for patients and families who would otherwise feel alone managing this difficult condition. Children as young as four can have strokes due to the sickle-shaped cells blocking blood flow.
“We celebrate all of them when they graduate high school, go to college, and get into young adulthood,” Grumbach said.
According to Grumbach, sickle cell anemia is a poorly supported disease. When she submits grants for funds or seeks media coverage for EMBSCA, she is often told the condition is too specialized to one group.
“People don’t understand that this condition can impact anyone with pigmentation in their skin. That includes Southwest Asians, Hispanics, those of Mediterranean descent, and African Americans,” Grumbach said.
Patients are also forced to confront erroneous assumptions when a sickle cell crisis lands them in the ED. Healthcare providers often assume they are faking pain to get opiates. Shockingly, not many providers understand that when blood can’t flow freely through your veins, tissues begin to die, and that causes excruciating pain that is not easy to detect quickly.
“There are protocols, and you start with putting patients on oxygen, keeping them warm, deal with their pain, and assess them,” Grumbach said. “The amazing thing is, I didn’t know much of this when I joined. I started getting more active, got educated, and then my daughter married a man with the sickle cell trait. I have someone in the family to discuss these things with, and engaging in that is a gift.”