Outdoor Oasis

Donations, volunteers make outdoor oasis possible for front-line workers

Melissa Varner
January 04, 2021
Diann Krywko by motivational message, Work hard, be kind, stay humble
Diann Krywko, M.D.


As director of wellness, health and resilience for the Department of Emergency Medicine at MUSC, it’s up to Diann Krywko, M.D., to look out for her team’s well-being – a much bigger job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“March, April and May were exceedingly stressful,” Krywko explained. “Not because of the number of COVID cases. But because of the anticipation, not knowing what was about to happen. That was very stressful to the front-line workers.”

Adding to that stress were limited safe, quiet spaces to take a break. The closest option was a small, indoor breakroom that didn’t allow for social distancing.

Krywko found inspiration in the parking lot, behind the makeshift waiting room at the emergency department entrance on Jonathan Lucas Street: She could turn the space into an outdoor breakroom! First, she called Lowe’s in Mount Pleasant to see if they would donate picnic tables. “Without even thinking about, the manager said, ‘How many do you need?’ Isn’t that amazing?” 

Picnic table with motivational message: 'you are changing what's possible'

Her next call was to the Home Depot in Mount Pleasant, which donated artificial turf. Paige Hall, a Roper nurse and wife of emergency department doctor Greg Hall, volunteered to make decals to go on the tables. Each table has a different motivational message on it like, “You are changing what’s possible” and “Heroes work here.”

Next Krywko reached out to the MUSC Grounds Department. She asked for a tree to spruce up the space. The grounds crew overdelivered, bringing multiple trees, bushes and even string lights!

Krywko's family works on the outdoor space

Sweat equity also made the outdoor oasis possible. “I totally made my kids and husband help out, which they graciously did.” Krywko said. “My son Nikolai, my daughters Genevieve and Vivienne, my niece Sarah and my husband Chris. They laid down the turf, painted all those tables and set everything up.”

The final touch was a sign from the Department of Security that reads, “Reserved for emergency department and EMS personnel. Thank you for respecting their dedicated rest space.”

Emergency technician Matthew McGreen said all the effort was worth it. “Sitting out there – out of sight, out of mind for just five or 10 minutes – really helps to decompress and reset, before going back in and spending hours in PPE (personal protective equipment), in an uncomfortable N95 mask trying to do what you can for other people.

“Thank you,” McGreen continued. “It's been a long road. Knowing that people care for us and want us to be safe, happy and healthy helps us keep going.”

The generosity of the community made it easy to transform a corner of the parking lot into a lush little paradise, Krywko said. “Thank you for supporting front-line workers without hesitation. We appreciate it, so very much.”


About the Author

Melissa Varner

Keywords: Thank You Notes