Rain or Shine, Pryslak is Ready to Serve

By Zoe Linafelt

Christopher Pryslak has worked in the culinary department for nearly 20 years in his hometown at St. Petersburg General Hospital. He walks to work every day, where he washes the pots, pans, and dishes and delivers food trays to patients in the ICU.

“I like this part because the patients are nice people and need my help,” he said. “The patients usually thank me as I serve them their meal.”

Supervisors report he carries out his duties in a kind and gentle way. They often receive compliments about him from patients and staff on his ability to provide comfort to patients who are in considerable pain.

Because he is so responsible, reliable, and excellent at his job, he is the hospital’s go-to person when they are unexpectedly short-staffed. Pryslak usually works the 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. shift but steps up to work extra shifts if needed.

Pryslak has received Supported Employment and Supported Living services for several years through the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

Pryslak enjoys having a job because he can be independent and enjoy the privacy of his own apartment while saving money in his ABLE account. “Working lets me have money to pay cash for items that make my life better and more comfortable,” he said. Over the past couple years, he’s saved enough to buy a queen-sized bed, an HD TV, and a sound system.

Pryslak showed great generosity last fall with Hurricane Irma expected to hit the Tampa Bay area when he offered to work so that other hospital employees could be home with their families. He packed essentials and began a four-day, three-night adventure where he slept on a hospital mattress in a storeroom. Waking each morning at 6:30 a.m., he worked 13-hour shifts alongside ICU staff.

His longtime Supported Living Coach Steve McMahon said, “They respect him so much over there. He hasn’t missed a day of work in at least the past decade. He’s the kind of guy that if you were sick, he’s someone you’d want taking care of you.”

On holidays, some ICU patients make themed crafts, and it’s very common for Pryslak to be given 10-15 hearts or shamrocks as tokens of their gratitude for his care.

When he’s not on duty, Pryslak does chores at home and meets regularly with his coach. He likes to watch movies and enjoys building fires and making s’mores at his mother’s house in the Smoky Mountains.

His goals are to continue working at the hospital and living in his apartment until he retires. In the future, he’d like to learn how to prepare and cook food in the hospital kitchen. Pryslak certainly has found the perfect job for him and is making a difference in people’s lives. As he put it, “When I work in the kitchen with my team, we are helping patients get better.”

Christopher Pryslak washes dishes and serves meals to patients in the ICU at St. Petersburg General Hospital.