first_imgOthers who have signed the guest book have included testaments to the tea lady’s power to heal. “I was depressed yesterday and now I feel great – thank you,” wrote Mary Torres. “I had so much pain in my heart then you slipped into my room for a tea party and the pain went away,” wrote Lilli Bonner. Cindy Damboise, nurse manager on the fourth floor, has seen the same scene, heard the same words dozens of times. The tea lady has no medical degree, no physical therapy training whatsoever, but Damboise thinks these tea parties are having a big impact on the physical health of these women. “Emotionally, I know they do. But I’ve also seen patients start breathing easier and feeling so much better physically after she leaves,” she said. “These tea parties definitely have a healing effect.” Because she takes her time and does not want to rush the women in hospital gowns sipping her tea, Smidderks can do only two or three parties every Friday afternoon. She started them in February after the death of her dog, Snuggles. For seven years, Smidderks had been bringing her little Shih Tzu dog to the hospital every Friday to let the patients hold and play with him. “I could do six or seven visits in an afternoon with him, and he always lifted their spirits,” the Granada Hills woman said. “After he died at 16, I wanted to continue volunteering, but I didn’t seem to be a fit for the gift shop or sitting at the front information desk. “I’ve had tea parties my entire life, so I asked if it was OK to have them here because I knew a real connection is made with someone over a cup of tea. “For an hour or two, you can make them forget about the pain and remember the good times.” Sipping tea from fine china on embroidered tablecloths with a red rose in a vase because women heal better when they have beauty around them. Men, she isn’t so sure about. Dennis McCarthy’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. [email protected] (818) 713-3749160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Just ask Dolores Bork, who sat down to a cup of hot mint tea with Mary on Friday afternoon. Bork, 85, considered herself lucky to be alive after suffering a massive heart attack last week. Her heart stopped three times – twice on the way to the hospital from her Ridgecrest home and once on the operating table. But Bork didn’t dwell on that during her visit with the tea lady. Instead, they talked about their childhoods, their loved ones, their pets and favorite things about life. Then Bork autographed the tea lady’s guest book, adding her name to the dozens of other women who have recovered from surgery in these rooms. “This is so very, very special. Thank you,” she said. “I’m not in the hospital now. I’m at a beautiful tea party.” For a few precious hours every Friday afternoon, pain and fear take a back seat to smiles and warm memories in the fourth-floor recovery rooms at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. That’s when Mary Smidderks, the tea lady, comes to visit. Bringing her best china, embroidered tablecloths and a vase with a red rose, she transforms drab hospital rooms into warm, intimate tea parties for female patients whose spirits need a lift. “Women heal faster when they have beauty around them,” said Smidderks, a retired vice principal at Los Angeles Baptist High School. “I don’t know about men, but women respond to beauty.” last_img read more