- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Emergency room workers at area hospitals yesterday were treated to burritos from restaurant Baja Fresh Mexican Grill as a thank-you for giving their time on Christmas Eve.

“Sometimes health care workers get forgotten on the holidays, and we’re spending time away from our families,” said Reston Hospital Center nursing technician Lori Licker. “I love being able to take care of people and sometimes it’s nice to have people take care of us.”

Doctors and nurses are used to working on holidays and receiving food and treats. But Dr. Don Infeld said the quesadilla and guacamole fixings were a nice change from the usual fruitcakes and cookies. The meal included two types of burritos, quesadillas and chips and salsa.

“Holidays in the ER are always filled with food, but this is extra special with the presentation, variety and taste,” Dr. Infeld said. “It’s a nice treat.”

The emergency room is open 24 hours a day and 365 days a year because people get sick every day, Dr. Seon Lee said. “We’re used to it. But having a full belly will help us out a lot today.”

Most of the hospital workers took the food back to their desks and quickly returned to the task of helping patients.

Registered nurse Karin Gaitonden said she appreciates the community giving back to the hospital workers.

“It’s very nice,” she said.

This is the second year Baja Fresh, a subsidiary of the Wendy’s fast-food restaurants, has given free meals to hospitals. Wendy’s was founded in 1969 by Dave Thomas.

The program was started when a family member of the company owner spent the holiday in an emergency room, said Diane Shader, a spokeswoman for the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based company.

“It’s their way of saying thank you and showing how grateful they are to doctors, nurses and ER workers,” said Miss Shader, who estimated 4,000 meals were served to hospital workers nationwide yesterday.

“We love it,” said Edgar Cruz general manager of the Baja Fresh in Herndon. “It feels great to be here serving the nurses and doctors.”

Nurse Pam Henry appreciated the food, but said holiday shifts and meals on the run are just part of an emergency-care worker’s lifestyle.

“We do it for the people in the community and we’re not looking for a reward,” she said. “We’re just here to help.”

Other area hospitals served the meals yesterday were Falls Church Hospital, Inova Fair Oaks Hospital, Inova Fairfax Hospital, Inova Healthplex Hospital, Loudoun Hospital, Mary Washington Hospital and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

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