Eva Wilk has been working as a nurse at Centegra Hospital – McHenry for more than 30 years – so long that members of the community recognize her when she is out and about.
And her 21-year-old daughter, Jessica Wilk, who initially considered pursuing journalism and nominated her mother for the Everyday Hero award, chose instead to study nursing. Jessica will graduate in May from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“I didn’t want to do nursing for the longest time. I think my mom coming home and having these stories was kind of overwhelming,” Jessica said. “I’ve never seen her working in the hospital, I’ve only heard stories, but outside I see how she’s always willing to lend a helping hand – that’s the kind of person I want to be.”
Eva Wilk was born in Poland and remains bilingual, which is another skill that makes her an asset in her current nursing assignment. She has worked in the medical surgical unit in the past but is currently stationed in same-day surgery.
Eva Wilk admits patients, prepares them for surgery and then cares for them post-operation.
“I am very honored,” she said of the award. “I was very surprised, and I don’t see myself as a hero at all. I feel that I love what I do as a nurse, I love my profession [and I] practice it to the values I uphold very high.”
She said that many times nurses have to put their profession before their families. Her daughter recalled Eva coming home many days completely exhausted, but a smile would always find its way to her face.
Jessica Wilk said her mother’s inherent compassion and how she carries herself on days off make her an everyday hero. Jessica recalled a time when she was shopping with her mother and an elderly man fell. Eva rushed the man’s side and comforted him until the situation calmed.
“I think a lot of times people think of heroes as someone who’s done something huge or major,” Jessica Wilk said. “It’s the traits that she does every single day, like having the strength to care for others as she would her own family.”
Eva Wilk enjoys her work because every day is different but admits the emotional aspect is difficult at times.
“As little as it is, I know the outcome is always that I’ve been able to touch someone’s life,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding profession.”
Her co-worker, Hebron resident Margie Kelly, jokingly said the two have been working together “too long.”
Now, the two work side by side in same-day surgery.
“We feed off one another,” Kelly said. “We do what we do, we do it together and we’ve done it together for a long time.”
Kelly said that despite the decades that have passed, Eva still has not lost her dedication to her craft.
“Her passion for what we do is as good today as it was 30 years ago,” Kelly said. “She shows that to our patients every day.”