Why I’m Voting ‘Yes’ for Local Health Care

Submitted By: nehalemhealthcare@gmail.com – Click to email about this post
A testimonial from a local supporter.

By Kelly Seaton

I am a third generation North coast resident. My grandparents moved here from Portland in the mid 80’s after retirement. My grandfather built their home and large separate garage on the top of the hill in Wheeler. He called it “Up town Wheeler,” and that’s how he answered the phone since I was a little girl.

My grandfather was an avid fisherman among many other things and deeply intertwined in the community. He was the mayor of Wheeler at one point. My grandmother was a really wonderful lady, an avid gardener and part of the garden club in town. They both were proud Lions club members and loved living out here on the coast. They finished building their home here the year I was born, so I spent my entire childhood traveling back and forth a lot from the Portland area.

My grandfather had many serious health issues over the course of his retirement. He would travel back and forth from Portland, Astoria, Seaside, Tillamook and other bigger cities nearby because of the lack of resources in this area for his medical needs. He had heart problems that lead to a pacemaker and liver disease in his end years. He was life flighted and rushed by ambulance many times throughout his time here as our local health system wasn’t sufficient for his medical needs. Moving away from the coast was never an option as they were deeply involved in the community and wanted to stay in their home they loved and built for themselves.

My grandmother had really ideal health until her late 70s when she developed Alzheimer’s disease. At one point, she was in the Nehalem Bay memory care before my mother pulled her out and brought her home to Grandpa where she belonged. My mother and a few of their siblings took turns caring for my grandmother for the remainder of her time here on earth. It ended up being 5+ years of my grandmother battling the disease before it took her life. During those very difficult years, my mother spent most of her week down here, from her home and family in the Portland area, caring for my grandparents night and day. She would get relief by a few of her siblings for a couple days a week. They traveled from Sandy and Raleigh Hills, OR. They all did whatever it took to make sure my grandparents got to stay together in their home where they wanted to be. This was a major sacrifice and a reality for many in this community. As it turns out, both my grandparents passed away within a few months of each other in the comfort of their home with their kids by their side.

My mother and stepdad had bought a home in Nehalem not long before my mom’s parents both passed away.

My mother then went on to living life for herself again, and it wasn’t long before she herself began an awful battle with cancer. They found when it was late stage 3. She spent the rest of her life traveling for her medical care to Portland and the cancer center in Astoria. This was a really unfortunate situation and something many will deal with as they choose to retire or live here. Lack of specialty care and access to sufficient medical systems and care facilities make this area really challenging for all. These things make it difficult for everyone and it’s important to recognize that we are all in it together. At some point, every person in this community will need health services or specialty care that we may or may not have available here and need to travel for. Our grocery store clerk, gas station attendant, bankers, farmers, and so on. Even if it doesn’t impact you or your family directly, it will inevitably still impact you.

I am now raising the 4th generation here in our community. I moved out here when my mother was diagnosed with cancer and my daughter was only 3 months old. We had a year with my mother before she passed from complications of chemotherapy and the cancer itself. I’ve raised my daughter here and stay with my stepdad where we have grown quite close as we share the grief of missing my mom. I plan to continue living in this community and my daughter is now in the Neahkahnie school district as a preschooler. We spent the first few years of her life traveling to Portland for her primary care and then to Tillamook for a short while. Then we landed at the (then known as) Rinehart clinic where we quickly realized we should have been all along. We are lucky to have such caring and wonderful health care workers right here in our little town. It took a little time and some recommendations from friends in town, before we found the right place for our needs. My daughter has some special needs and is being well taken care of, still needed to travel some for her.

The Nehalem Bay Health Center needs this upgrade we are voting for.

With all that said, our livelihoods are deeply impacted by access to healthcare. Our health care system in this area needs a major upgrade and overhaul to accommodate the needs of our community and aging population, my stepdad included. It is deeply important to me to do whatever I can to make this happen.

As a student of Public Health and future health care worker and more importantly, a mother, daughter and friend. We are the fabric of our community, and we need to care for one another. If there is one important thing I’ve learned in the study of Public Health, it’s that the health of every individual matters and makes a difference. Lack of access to healthcare is a major determinant of health outcomes.

We need this new upgraded facility, and we need to ensure we are all given a fair and equal opportunity to have good health and promote longevity. Traveling for care is both a privilege and a major added challenge, that many will be, and already are, unable to make happen. This means poorer health outcomes for our community and negatively impacts our population health.

We need our community strong, healthy and fully supported. This is why I’m voting “Yes” for local health care.