July 14, 2008

Message to Nurses is Right on the Beam

By Mary OLeary

By Mary E. O'Leary Register Topics Editor

NEW HAVEN -- The latest message on the steel skeleton of the Smilow Cancer Hospital is a shout-out to all the nurses working with breast cancer patients.

"Thank You Nurses" is painted in white on a pink beam with the ribbon symbol for breast cancer and a mention of the ironworkers and Operating Engineers Union. The letters are 3 feet high.

The steel beams have become an aerial billboard of sorts for messages to cancer patients, particularly the those being treated at the adjacent Children's Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

They contain children's names with the message: "Hope is Coming" spray painted in a central place easily seen from Park Street.

Why pink this time?

"We wanted to do something feminine," said Greg Gibroski, one of the handful of ironworkers who monitor safety at the construction site on Park Street and South Frontage Road.

Gibroski said he and several other ironworkers paint the beams on the ground at about 5 a.m., before their shifts begin.

He said the best view for the thank-you is from the hospital's East Pavilion, the Air Rights Garage and South Frontage Road.

"They can see it from their break room," Gibroski said of the nursing staff at the East Pavilion.

They make sure mandated safety procedures are followed at the 14- story cancer center, which will be topped off with the last piece of steel later this month.

Scheduled to begin opening in fall 2009, the hospital costs $467 million and is being built to allow Y-NH to consolidate all its cancer services in one facility.

A former Army Ranger, Gibroski, 29, is an apprentice ironworker from Haddam, working for Capco Steel, a Rhode Island company hired to put up the superstructure.

He said the other workers arriving for the day's work recently ribbed them over the color until they realized it was a support message for breast cancer patients and their caretakers.

The kidding turned to "Good job, guys," Gibroski said, as the workers talked about women they knew struck by the disease.

Next up? Gibroski said everyone wants a day on the steel and you may see tributes to other members of the hospital staff before the steel skeleton is covered.

Mary E. O'Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or [email protected]

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