Singing While He Works

May 22, 2019

A transportation aide at Hackensack University Medical Center since 2012, Karlhey Frederic’s velvety tones warm the hearts and lift the spirits of the numerous patients he wheels to and from their rooms each week.

Given the circumstances, such as an impending test or procedure, some patients are understandably agitated. Others, quietly tense. In either case, Karlhey has learned to read their emotions. And whether he sings for patients or simply engages in small talk to distract them from their troubles, he never wants to be just the guy pushing their wheelchair or stretcher.

“I always want to make a positive difference for everyone I transport, even if it’s just for a moment or two,” Karlhey says. “Some patients like to talk, others want to hear me hum or sing. And some who’ve heard me sing before even make requests.”

Karlhey can handle pretty much any request thrown at him. He can sing in seven different languages, and as a literal student of music, pursuing a degree in music theory at New Jersey City University, Karlhey can belt out tunes from R&B and hip-hop to Frank Sinatra and Andrea Bocelli—and even the National Anthem at hospital events.

Karlhey doesn’t remember exactly when singing while he works turned into a few stolen moments patients look forward to. But he knows what has happened since: Recently, some patients began asking their doctors or nurses to have him sing them off as they were discharged from the hospital. And that took a little sleight-of-hand with the transportation schedule.

“When we receive requests, we make it work,” says Tony Cabrera, manager of support services operations in the hospital’s Guest Services department and Karlhey’s direct supervisor, “especially if it’s the last impression a patient is going to have of our hospital.”

Karlhey’s vocals are just as popular among his fellow team members. And sometimes they hit close to home.

Last June, Karlhey—at Tony’s suggestion—sang for the discharge of Alfred D’Ambrosio, a kidney transplant recipient. Alfred requested Bocelli, so Karlhey sang “Mattinata (Morning)” for him. Alfred happens to be the father of Nadine D’Ambrosio, manager of business development at The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center within the hospital.

“Karlhey’s song made my father’s discharge so elegant and beautiful,” Nadine says. “I’ll always be grateful to him for that.”

The surprise visit thrilled Alfred, as well. “I was surprised when Karlhey came into my room to sing, and I certainly didn’t expect to hear what I heard,” he says. “His voice is amazing, and his song added even more pleasure to the miracle I experienced that week.”

Tell us about a team member at Hackensack Meridian Health who made all the difference in your care.

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