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The Woman Behind the Counter at Hurley Medical Center's Jazzmans Cafe

Katana Noel says, “Everybody has a story” as she shares her personal experience on how she provides the comfort of a listening ear to coworkers at Hurley Medical Center.

Every night at Hurley Medical Center you can hear the sounds of espresso machines prepping for the rush of employees on their breaks at 1:30 in the morning. During the night hours a small cafe called Jazzmans opens up for all sorts of snacks for third shift staff. Katana Noel is a dietary cashier at Jazzmans cafe and has been providing a listening ear to Hurley employees for over 17 years.

Katana was raised in Flint, Michigan and gives back to her community in a way that not many people know about. We chose Katana to be our feature profile for Kathy of the Month because of the way she empowers so many women on a daily basis. More importantly, we want people to know that she gives so much even after losing someone so close to her.

Three years ago Katana's sister Kerri suddenly passed away at 34 years old after suffering from a heart attack at home. "I'm one on the strongest women you’ll meet. That tore me down to my knees. That took me to a place I never wanna go again in life, it was rough." Katana reminisced of her deep relationship with her sister, how they were going to school together, and that her sister was her everything.

My sister was my life. I thought I couldn’t do it. I was scared I couldn’t take care of her two kids. It was horrible.

Every night at work Katana smiles brightly while talking to every customer who comes to her. There is a warmth about her, and a wisdom on life that can’t be missed. When I asked Katana how she overcame such a huge loss she said, “You have to have someone to talk to, it’s the most important thing. If you feel like crying, cry. It’s not easy to tell someone how to grieve. My sister was my life. I thought I couldn’t do it. I was scared I couldn’t take care of her two kids. It was horrible. A lot of people helped me through it here [Hurley Medical Center]. ER adopted my niece and nephew for Christmas the year she passed away. Everybody has a story.”

Katana survived her experience and it has since motivated her to be the listening ear to so many staff members who struggle at work. “Sometimes on the floor people be going through so much! The nurses go through so much, like if they lose somebody, or if they have a lot of problems. They come down and talk for a minuite and it helps so much! I love it. I don’t mind listening. Sometimes they just vent, or need chocolate or candy. I’ll ask what’s going on. And I don’t have to say one thing, they wont go into details but they'll say things are rough or their patients aren’t doing well. I love listening to them.”

Katana’s love for others brings her life, “I love talking to people. I‘m getting paid to do what I love most!” Katana has impacted so many employees at Hurley. Katana is a woman who has dealt with grief and has been able to see hope throughout her circumstances. I have heard so many women say to me that Katana’s bravery in raising her sister‘s two children has provided personal inspiration.

Grief can swallow us whole. Grief can make us feel like our lives are out of our control. I asked Katana if she could share her advice on how to deal with grief and how she overcame such a loss. “It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to cry. And stay away from negative people. If you’re grieving and going through stuff get a hobby! Now I love to sew. I don’t know how to sew anything big, but sewing eases my heart. Just do something, and get your mind off of it.“

During our talk Katana also talked about the importance of surrounding yourself with a support group. She mentioned her best friend’s role during the first anniversary of her sister’s passing, “The first year I had a friend that came over and we watched a ‘Cheaters’ marathon all day! We ordered stromboli and pizza. I promise she was there from 9 o'clock in the morning to late at night. That helped.”

Positive people will bring you life!

Katana shared some other pivotal moments in her life during the last three years. This past anniversary of Kerri's passing, Katana and her niece went to visit her sister's memorial site. Katana remembers what her niece said during that moment, "Mama it’s okay, I know you had to leave me and I know you didn’t want to. Auntie is taking such good care of me. She’s doing great. You don’t have to worry about us." It has been the visible hope and intrepidness from her niece and nephew that have empowered Katana on the more difficult days.

Katana's kindness, her willingness to listen, and her fortitude are incredible. During the end of our interview I asked Katana what are some ways she thinks women can empower each other, “You have to let girls know they are beautiful! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. We as women, we are smart, we can do anything! Remember you can always go further! Love yourself.”

You have to understand where someone comes from to see who they are now. People have been through so much. Everybody has been through something.

Katana is a woman that was able to come back stronger and braver after a huge loss. Because of her experience she has decided to be a listening ear to those who are struggling at work. Hospitals are filled with tragedy, life, loss, and grief. Katana stands against those odds, smiles at you behind the counter and offers more than just coffee. She offers a reminder... We are in this together.

Their story. Her story. Our story.

We Are Kathy.

Written and Pictures by: Jenifer Veloso

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