12/15/05 — She found lost ring in scrub-stack

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She found lost ring in scrub-stack

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 15, 2005 1:52 PM

Unlike other nurses who scrub in for surgery every day at Wayne Memorial Hospital, LPN Erlene Booth said she chooses to bring and wear her wedding bands.

Although that means she must repeatedly remove them, she has a system. She secures her rings and watch on a large and sturdy safety pin before placing them in her pocket.

Earlier this month, though, she lost track of her diamond solitaire and did not even realize it was missing until nearly 24 hours later. Distracted by an appointment that day, she failed to check her uniform pocket before discarding it and leaving the hospital grounds.

WMH lost diamond

News-Argus/Phyllis Moore

Erlene Booth, an LPN at Wayne Memorial Hospital, left, talks with Jennifer Woodley in the hospital's laundry room where Mrs. Booth's diamond ring was lost and later recovered by Ms. Woodley.

It wasn't until the next morning that she realized the ring was gone. Panicked, she arrived to work and enlisted the support of her co-workers in the search.

"The whole department was searching that day," she said. "I never lost anything before and had to look for it."

She said she couldn't believe it had simply fallen out of her pocket and was pessimistic about finding it. Nevertheless, she called the hospital's laundry, where the uniforms had already been laundered and folded.

"We all know how a drain on a washing machine is," she said. And in the hospital's laundry room, where industrial-size machines are the norm, having the gem surface seemed highly unlikely.

She said after she was told the staff would be on the lookout for it, she chose not to call back and disturb them.

"I was very upset," she said. "But I had to work, so I tried to keep my composure."

Around 1 p.m. that afternoon, she got a call from a laundry staff member, saying the ring had been found. Hesitant to leave her post, her co-workers offered to cover for her.

"Everyone said 'Go!'" Mrs. Booth said.

Trying not to get her hopes up, Mrs. Booth said she prepared herself for the possibility that her engagement ring was gone.

No sooner than she arrived to identify the ring, though, she said, "a young girl that looked like an angel walked up" with the piece of jewelry in hand.

The stone and band had become separated, but Jennifer Woodley found the two pieces near one another on the floor of the laundry room.

"How in the world she found both, I don't know," Mrs. Booth said.

Ms. Woodley said she had heard about Mrs. Booth's plight, but knew the uniforms had already been taken from a cart and folded. She said she was surprised to happen upon the band and diamond near one another on the floor.

"I was very happy" to find it, Ms. Woodley said.

"We both were," Mrs. Booth said. "We hugged."

The ring, designed by a jeweler who is now retired, was given to her by her husband of 34 years, J.D. He later gave her a wrap to go around it, but somehow the two became disconnected and the engagement ring was lost.

Booth told his wife he would buy her another to replace it, but she said it would not be the same as having the original back. And while others in her position have said they would never bring or wear their rings to work, Mrs. Booth said she will continue to keep hers close.

"The ring was given for a special reason," she said. "I'd just like it with me."

In the nearly 28 years she has worked at the hospital, Mrs. Booth said that nothing like this had ever happened. Still, she had always heard good reports about the hospital's laundry staff, she said.

"I want everyone to know that nurses are very important, as are doctors, but if we didn't have housekeeping and laundry, we couldn't function without them."

She has since had the ring repaired and said she gave Ms. Woodley a $100 reward for being so honest.

"It was worth more than that to me," she said. "I know it's her job, but still, people could do things and you would never even know it."

A thank-you note, which was written to her by Ms. Woodley, is a special momento Mrs. Booth carries around with her in her pocketbook, she said.

"Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill," Mrs. Booth said. "But you can't put a price on something like this. ... There was a devil in my pocket and an angel in the laundry room that day."