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@ Legacy Emanuel Stories

As part of our 100th anniversary, we asked people to submit stories from their experience born, saved or trained at Legacy Emanuel.  Here are some of the stories.


Born @ Legacy Emanuel

 A little fighter makes it home

By Carissa Creighton

On May 15, 2011, my world turned upside down. At 26 weeks, five days pregnant, something didn’t feel right. My motherly instincts kicked in and told me to get to the hospital at 4 a.m.

After many tests by concerned medical staff, my doctor showed up and discussed what they saw: a rare condition called “hydrops” that causes fluid in the unborn baby. It is dangerous for babies because it compromises the growth of their organs and puts extra work on the heart to get the fluid out of the body.

Within a few hours, the doctors in Salem transferred me to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center because it was better prepared for a baby with serious complications. The doctors said my son, Colten, likely wouldn’t live for 48 hours. However, over the following few days we had constant monitoring that thankfully determined that my little fighter was holding strong.

After almost two months in the Family Birth Center, we decided that it was best to deliver Colten; the doctors delivered him via Caesarean section and sent him immediately to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Every minute or two a nurse would come in and give me updates: My baby was trying to breath but wasn’t doing too well, but he was stable!

He continued to improve, and on Aug. 11, 2011, I got to take him home, three months after our journey started. Colten still comes to Legacy Emanuel for appointments, and we visit when we can –– he smiles and lights up when he sees the people who contributed to saving his life. He is the happiest, always smiling and bright baby boy in the world. He lights up my life. 

My son wouldn’t be here without the team at Legacy Emanuel. And for that, I will be forever grateful.





An unforgettable stormy night

By Marilyn McKee

I had an unforgettable experience at Emanuel Hospital in 1962. I had trained as a nurse at Emanuel, so I had always had a close association with the hospital, and when my fourth baby was due I, of course, planned on delivering at Emanuel.

The year 1962 was also famous for another event –– the Columbus Day Storm. As luck would have it, I went into labor in the early morning just after the storm had subsided. There was a tree blown over on our house, but I wasn't worried because I knew Emanuel would be well equipped for emergencies such as babies.

We managed to carefully drive to the hospital and were greeted by one lone candle burning on a small stand by the maternity door on the first floor. The labor rooms were on the fourth floor and the elevators weren't operable. Somehow, I managed to master all four flights of stairs without too much trouble and was nicely settled in by the nurses.

After a little more work on my part, I delivered my fourth daughter by the delivery room light provided by hospital generators. It was a good experience despite all the unexpected events. Emanuel has always had a special place in my heart made even more so by my Columbus Day Storm experience.





 Proud to be born at Legacy Emanuel

By Sharetta Butcher

On Dec. 30, 1966, I was born prematurely and was delivered by Dr. Thomas Thornton at Emanuel Hospital. I was not supposed to live, but the team worked with me; after a week in the hospital, I was ready to come home with my parents.

What made this special was (1) the life I received and (2) when I became married and started having kids, Dr. Thornton delivered my two children as well.

 My daughter was born at Emanuel Sept. 22, 1988. My son was delivered by Dr. Thornton, but not at Emanuel. There was some construction going on at the hospital during that time and we were routed to Legacy Good Samaritan, and Dr. Thornton was right there!

Dr. Thornton worked with a nurse named Suzy, who was the best R.N.  She had been with him for years. Both of them worked together and provided the best care for me and my children.  Happy birthday Legacy Emanuel! You provided the best doctors and nurse with the best care.  Proud to be born at Emanuel!





A present we will never forget

By Patty Kartchner

Thrilled to be pregnant with my seventh child, I was shocked to be threatening miscarriage at 16 weeks while on a cross country road trip with my family. I made it home to Oregon, on bed rest for eight weeks. My son, Adam, was born at Legacy Emanuel on Aug. 22, 1994.

Born 16 weeks early, he weighed 1.5 pounds; his whole hand was about the size of my thumbnail. "I held on to you as long as I could," I whispered to him. My husband wept.

Months of care at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit ensued; the staff cared for Adam and our family, realizing the tremendous toll that prematurity can take on a family.

Adam was discharged Dec. 24, 1994, a Christmas present we will never forget. In 2012, he turned 18 years old. And his mother still gets teary-eyed whenever she drives by Emanuel, remembering the work that birthed and saved a life.

(After this experience, Patty became a certified nurse midwife, delivering babies at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.)





Saved @ Legacy Emanuel

 “Lymphoma Libby” beats cancer

by Libby Mongue

In December of 2000 I began feeling a funny gurgling in my throat, really itchy skin, extreme tiredness and horrible hiccups. I was 20 years old. My mom and I both thought maybe I had mono, so with a little prodding from her, I went to see a doctor. This led to a CAT scan, more tests and bad news: Hodgkin's lymphoma, stage two. I had officially become a cancer patient.

I had four cycles of chemo in a little over four months. Besides the typical hair loss, nausea and vomiting, of chemo, I ended up getting hospitalized three times, for a total of 12 days, and dropped 30 pounds. 

Because I slept a lot during those four months, I can say that it seemed like the time went by quickly. But for my caregivers, that was an incredibly long four months. I know every time I got hospitalized, I scared everyone. I didn't know it at the time, but my sister would just sit and watch me sleep to make sure I kept breathing. 

Once I finished treatment, it was time to move on to all those follow-up scans to make sure that I stay in remission. First it was every three months, then every four, then every six, and then once a year.

I'm happy to report that I went to Legacy Emanuel in 2012 for my 11th year of remission follow up! I've celebrated several National Cancer Survivors Day's at Emanuel (until it got too big!). Thank you Emanuel and some awesome doctors, nurses, PSs, MAs, radiology techs, med students, receptionists and even cleaning staff. You all helped to get me to this point! Onward and upward!





Eternally grateful

By Daniel A. Moors

It was 1a.m., July 1, 2005, when I crossed a dark street, dressed in dark clothing, and was hit by a car in a 45 mph zone at full impact. I was thrown about 30 feet and sustained a severe head injury, broken ribs, broken pelvis and a badly broken right leg.

I was taken to the emergency room in Eureka, Calif., where I reside. There were no trauma centers with available rooms, except for Legacy Emanuel in Portland. I wasn’t expected to live to make it to the hospital by air, but I did.

With care from the great doctors and nurses, I healed while in a coma for six weeks. When I awoke, I had no recollection of how I got to the hospital. As days and weeks went by, my brain started to work and I began to remember things and people. I learned to walk with an external fixator on my right leg. I was a patient at Emanuel for about three months before I was discharged.

I’ve recovered much of my long-term memory. I walk with a cane about half a mile a day –– I have lots of friends and family and I’m very happy. I owe my life to the wonderful, caring people at Legacy Emanuel and their excellence in modern medicine. I am eternally grateful.





Wonderful work as an everyday occurrence

By Elaine Ford

My son John suffered a gunshot wound to the head in May of 2005; he was 21 years old. Sent from Coos Bay to Legacy Emanuel, the staff made him comfortable and, even though we are pretty sure he couldn't hear us, talked to him whenever they attended to him.

As his injuries were not survivable, we decided that he would be an organ donor. The staff went out of their way to make us welcome and answer any questions we had while we were waiting for the transplant surgery to take place. They treated him with dignity and respect every moment of his stay.

Both my sister, who is an R.N., and my best friend, who is an administrator at another health care organization, remarked on the outstanding quality of care that my son received. My sister commented that everyone should have to spend time there to see how it should be done, referring to the ICU unit.

While my son was not a survivor, his organ donations saved other lives. I have had correspondence with the young man who received one of his kidneys, and he tells me that he "takes the boy with him wherever he goes." The parts of my son that were saved mean a lot, both to me and to the recipients. Legacy Emanuel is doing wonderful work as an everyday occurrence. Thank you, thank you, thank you.



Trained @ Legacy Emanuel

 Nurse ends up where she started

by Patrea Kristensen Krol

It was 1964 and I was a wide-eyed high school grad when I left “the farm” in Central Washington and came to “the city” and Emanuel Hospital School of Nursing, which had the best reputation for educating nurses on the West Coast. 

So many memories … we worked hard, but on our time off we played hard –– ride the tandem bikes up to the zoo, swim in our state-of-the-art pool or do a little shopping at Lloyd Center. In the summer we would sunbathe on the roof of the dorm, which was fine until the traffic and news helicopters passed overhead and made comments on the radio about the Emanuel nursing students in their skimpy bathing suits … or no suits!

After graduation, I worked at Emanuel as an IV therapy nurse and then moved to St. Helens where I worked for 12 years, but my heart was always at Emanuel, and I continued to work on call. One night, I told the supervisor I thought I was in labor. She was upset because we were short staffed. I told her, never mind, I’ll work! Well, she had to close the recovery room and have that nurse cover me as I delivered my first son before I could finish the shift!

I returned to the IV Therapy Department at Emanuel in 1982. Then in 1983, I had the opportunity to go to the Emergency Department. I was blessed to be working at Emanuel when we launched the trauma program. I worked in the ED until I became a trauma nurse coordinator in 2002. I retired from Emanuel in 2009. 

When I became a coordinator, I was given an office that was only four doors away from my first dorm room! So I can say I started and ended my nursing career in the same hallway at Emanuel Hospital!





“The angels are coming”

By Carole Wakefield Schaeffer, R.N.

I proudly say I am a graduate of the Emanuel Hospital School of Nursing, class of 1967. To be a graduate of Emanuel was in itself a reference for excellence. There are many memories both as a student and when I worked as a registered nurse for Legacy Health.

One of my most moving memories was a Christmas morning. Students who were not on duty, but had not gone home for the holiday, celebrated the arrival of Christmas morning by singing carols throughout the hospital. The clear voices could be heard as they sang, walking in single file carrying a battery operated candle.

Christmas morning 1964, I was working night shift on 4 North, the medical unit. One of my patients was a young woman in her late 20s who was dying from ovarian cancer. I was at her bedside when we heard the students singing.

I will always remember she held my hand and said, “Listen the angels are coming." It was at that time she took her last breath and died as the singing continued throughout the unit. I often wonder if the angels she heard were the students or angels in heaven.





Grateful for wonderful experiences

By Carol Pihl Taylor

In 1972 young women were normally given only a few career options: nurse, teacher, secretary or stewardess. Since my sister Helene was in training at Emanuel, I figured if she could do it, so could I. When I found out what nurses really do, I nearly passed out, but I hung in there anyway.

Most student nurses lived across the street from the hospital, which made the commute convenient.  We had one telephone and one refrigerator per floor.   Our training at Emanuel was second to none.  Our largely hands-on training prepared me well for the real world" of nursing.  Our training took us through clinical practice in med-surg, orthopedics, labor and delivery, pediatrics, critical care, emergency room, and psychiatric care.

Following graduation I worked in at Emanuel.  In 1977 I married and moved to Alaska, where I have spent most of my career.  My first Alaska job was in Valdez, Alaska, where my obstetrics training got a workout within the first few days ––  I delivered a baby myself when the doctor didn't make it in time.

I have always felt that my Emanuel training had the largest impact on my practice.  I am grateful to Emanuel for the wonderful training, experiences and employment early in my career.





Training people to be listeners, companions

By Rev. Kristen D. Anderson

The Clinical Pastoral Education Program at Emanuel during the summer of 1986 was like no other. We were only six people, mixed faiths, varied hopes and both genders, all with the common bond of being middle-aged.

When we realized that Rev. William F. Adix, our chaplaincy supervisor, was prone to condensing great wisdom into short sentences, I began collecting quotes the way I pounced on agates on the beach. One intrepid soul used them as headlines to create calendars.

The most appreciated advice I received was not to read a patient’s records before going through the door. “Trust the patient to tell you what she would like you to know,” Bill advised. The freedom to not need to know details in advance was applied so often during my ministry as a Lutheran pastor, making me a better listener and a better companion on another’s journey, open to where they wished to go.

Laughter abounded in the chaplaincy office that summer, as did supportive comments from nurses who watched us work and families who sometimes needed us more than the patients did.