MORGANTOWN – Ruby Memorial Hospital nurse Denise Morrison burst into joyful tears Wednesday afternoon when Gov. Jim Justice called her name and presented her with a bone-shaped check for $1 million.
Morrison, a Fairmont resident, was the latest $1 million winner in the Do It For Babydog vaccine incentive lottery.
Morrison made her way to the front of the meeting room in the Heart & Vascular Institute and hugged Justice many times as he presented her with the check. Babydog was there, too, and sat on a table at the front of the room, which was full of Morrison’s friends and colleagues. Nurses, doctors and other staff clapped and cheered and shared her tears.
Justice praised Morrison for getting vaccinated, as well as everyone else in the room. “This is great for us all in a big, big way,” he said. “All of y’all have done the greatest work, the most courageous work. Absolutely, you have saved so many lives.”
After Justice and Babydog left and all of Morrison’s friends had congratulated her and returned to work, Morrison took a few minutes to talk about the news.
She works on the 5-North trauma floor, she said. “I woke up this morning thinking I was going to do my regular errands on my day off today.” She was going to have lunch with her fiance, Brad Fletcher, and do some shopping.
She had no idea what was going to happen when she was called to come by the hospital. She was told they were going to talk about some things going on in the operating room, she said.
Asked if she’d had any daydreams about what she might do with her winnings when she registered for the Babydog lottery, she said, “I’ve always told myself if I ever had anything or I would win money, that I would like to help myself and my family out financially with their house, my mom, things like that, help pay their bills off.”
She had to work through more joyful tears to say that. “It’s a very great day. It’s very humbling.”
She commented on all the hugs and cheers offered by her coworkers. “We always say my OR is like my second family. We’re always there for each other. If we have any kind of burdens or hardships in our lives, everybody pulls together. It truly is my second family here. … I’ve been here since 2006 and I can’t see myself anywhere else.”
Her immediate plans are simple. “We’re going to carry on and make the best of our lives just like every other day, help out where we can when we can with who we can and just be there for each other and our families.”
The Babydog lottery was established to motivate residents to get vaccinated and Morrison urged people to do that.
“We’re all trying to come together to fight this thing,” she said. “It’s been a hardship, especially in the hospital in the OR with everybody – just tying to deal with it, get rid of it. I would recommended that they do get the vaccine. We can all help fight this together.”
Fletcher was there, also teary-eyed. He said he learned the news on Tuesday but didn’t reveal it to Morrison. “Deserving,” he said of her. “Nobody deserves it better, that’s how I was able to keep it from her.”