|The Memorial Calendar
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Between 14 and 17 percent of our specialty care patients have been traveling from the Lower Valley to Yakima to receive that care, sometimes more than once each week.
So we’ve come to our patients!
Our new center in Sunnyside (open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1812 E. Edison Ave.) may include cardiovascular, orthopedics, infusion care, oncology/hematology, vascular, pulmonology, urology, pain, wound care, sleep, lab services and X-ray.
Our staff is bilingual!
Ask your primary care provider for a referral today!
Learn more here https://www.yakimamemorial.org/lower-valley-home.asp
That warm feeling North Star Lodge is known for got a little warmer and cozier recently when Stewart Subaru, partnering with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, donated 80 blankets for cancer patients at North Star Lodge. The gift included notes of encouragement from Stewart Subaru customers, written when the promotion was displayed at the dealership.
Thank you, Stewart Subaru and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society!
Ashley Cullison is a Michigan girl. Or she thought she was.
Ashley graduated from nursing school there and got her first job as an R.N. at a hospital in Grand Rapids. Ashley loves her family and her part of the country, but something was pulling at her. A yearning to see more.
“There’s so much more to this country that I had never seen,” she says, leaning in with enthusiasm. “For some reason I felt like the PNW was calling my name. So I looked into travel nursing. I liked the opportunities it presented so I talked to Travel Nurse Across America. I interviewed them: How are you going to help me? I mean, I was going to completely uproot my life.
“I decided to give it a shot.”
Her first call? Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital in fall 2016. Then it was Modesto, Calif., for three months. In April 2017 Ashley was back here. By this time “here” was really starting to feel like home. “I had really good connections at work and from church here,” Ashley says. Her contract was extended three times, but she finally had to leave or risk losing her traveler status. “I then went to Sacramento, but while I was there I decided I wanted to give Yakima more than chunks of my time.
On May 7, 2018, Ashley Cullison joined the team at Virginia Mason Memorial full time. Until she moves into her townhome, Ashley is staying with nurse Tiffini Gunkel, her husband Brad (a VMM network analyst) and their family. The Gunkels provided a home for Ashley last year, too.
“I feel very blessed,” she says. “While I was in Sacramento my grandfather passed away in Michigan. When that happened I had more co-workers from Memorial text or call me to see if I was OK then from anyplace else I worked.
“Coming back it’s been fun to explore the full spectrum of Memorial’s float pool. I think being a traveler made me well-suited for this.
“The day that I got here my relationship with management in the float pool has been great. I felt very welcomed. For Kim (Krapf) to extend the job offer to me, it means a lot that they thought of me what I thought of them.
“I worked both day and night shifts here as a traveler, and in so many departments. But no matter where I get sent here I feel like I have friends. I understand that nursing has stressful days anywhere. But the nursing culture here is so different than what I experience at the other places. Here they say, ‘Hey, can I help you out? You’re behind, I’m behind, let’s get caught up together.’
“I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was 3 years old. Yakima sucked me in.”
Sonny and Linda Salsbury are of a certain age. The age before anybody knew just how harmful the sun’s rays could be.
“We’re both from L.A.,” Sonny says. “We went to the beach constantly and covered ourselves with baby oil and got as dark as we could.
“And, you know what? When I told my dermatologist that he said that he did the same thing!”
If only we had known then what we know now.
“I’ve had one bad melanoma and three other lesser melanomas over the years,” says Sonny, who’s 80. “I’ve also had basal cell and squamous cell (carcinoma).”
After years of back-and-forth between Southern California and Yakima, Sonny, a youth minister, and Linda recently returned to Yakima for good. “We’re back here in our house, a big, old Victorian built in 1904, and it’s our favorite house of all the places we’ve ever lived.”
Sonny figures he has thousands of kids, two of their own and the rest from his years of ministering to young people, some of those years spent at Yakima’s First Presbyterian Church. “Some of my kids even showed up (from both Yakima and California) to help us settle back into our home!”
And he is grateful. Not just for the help settling in, but for the care he’s gotten from Dr. Naseer Ahmad and the staff at Virginia Mason Memorial’s North Star Lodge. “Doctors found a small spot on my liver in fall 2017, and now I get an infusion of Keytruda every three weeks. It’s been great: I’ve had no side effects. In fact I’m going down to Emerald Cove Day Camp in San Juan Capistrano this summer to be the camp granddaddy: lead singing, take the kids on hikes, tell them stories.”
Washington ranks among the top 10 states for the highest rates of new cases of melanoma of the skin. So, what would Sonny like all of his kids and the rest of us to know about the sun and its effects on skin?
“Wear that sunscreen,” he says. “Get out of the tanning beds. And if you’ve ever had skin cancer, don’t miss your checkups: Get your moles checked.”
And finally, he says quietly, “It’s more important to be alive and be the color God made you.”
Angel Perez and Macayla Smith work out at the gym. They try to eat a low-carb diet. They have two cars, a nice apartment and enjoy spending their weekends with the kids.
Just another typical Yakima Valley family, right? Not even close.
“It’s so awesome getting up and not chasing the dragon,” says Angel.
The dragon was heroin.
“We were very active in the drug scene,” Angel says. “I was in gangs. I’ve been in prison twice. Macayla and I were on the streets; We were homeless. We used everything from heroin to methamphetamines to alcohol, but heroin was our drug of choice.”
That was almost three years ago, when the couple began their long journey to get off the streets and out of addiction.
“We’d hit rock bottom; I was done,” Angel says. “Ever since they took my little boy it kinda woke me up and opened my eyes. I told Macayla, ‘No, the streets ain’t nothing for us. Our son is our little angel, and we’re going to get him back.”
Angel and Macayla got themselves into out-patient treatment; they go to classes, see counselors. As Angel says, “Whatever it takes, we did it and we did it as a couple. We set some goals and . . .”
“We met them one by one,” says Macayla, finishing Angel’s sentence, holding his hand.
One of those goals included dealing with Hepatitis C. Angel long knew he had Hep C, but “I was kinda scared, and when you’re using you don’t care.”
His doctor referred him to Virginia Mason Memorial’s Liver Clinic, and now the couple can add being Hep C free to their list of accomplishments.
“In the beginning it was hard,” says Macayla of their transformation from homelessness and addiction to being the parents of three with playdates and jobs.
How did they do it? “Well, we fell in love, that’s for sure!” she says, laughing. “We’ve had each other’s backs ever since.”
“We go to Planet Fitness,” says Angel. “I go five days a week. It gets your body back. I feel so good to be getting my health back, you know what I mean? Now, instead of smoking, I get ready for the gym.
“We did an awesome thing. We showed them. We tell other people, you got this, you can do this, too. We got rid of our old friends, but whenever they see us they say ‘Good job!’ ”