The kindness of strangers — and community | Editorial

It was not the holiday weekend we had envisioned.

Instead of reading and catching some of the final rays of summer, I boarded a helicopter bound for the hospital in Bellingham with my husband strapped to a gurney. Acute appendicitis was the diagnosis and surgery was imminent.

As is often the case when you live on a remote island and experience an emergency, there was a multitude of steps to get from “I’m feeling unwell” to “I’m being admitted to the hospital” to “I’m coming home.” This included a ferry, a medevac flight, multiple taxis and a small plane ride.

All along the way, we encountered people who were kind and helpful far beyond the requirements of their job. Our doctor talked and texted us through the entire process. This was my first time going to the emergency room at PeaceHealth in Friday Harbor, and I was struck by how lucky our county is to have a medical facility of this caliber.

The airlift staff graciously allowed me to join them on the helicopter flight. Once at St. Joseph’s, the nurses and doctors provided prompt medical care, communicated frequently and took the time to ensure I was tended to as well. Our wonderful nurse brought me tea and snacks since the cafeteria is closed to visitors. Within a few hours of our arrival, my husband was wheeled back into the room, minus his appendix.

As day turned into night, I employed the help of two different Uber drivers to bring me around town. They waited with me in the pharmacy drive-through as I navigated complications with filling prescriptions. The pharmacist, who was singlehandedly working behind the counter at 9:30 p.m., still took the time to troubleshoot the problem and offer advice.

We received a discounted hospital rate to stay in a nearby hotel, and the next day, needing to catch an early morning flight home, the front desk manager gave us a ride in the shuttle as the regular driver was not yet on duty. Once home on Orcas, friends dropped off care packages, co-workers covered shifts and family helped us retrieve our car from San Juan Island.

As islanders, we take pride in the love we show one another, particularly in times of turmoil. It is a beautiful and special part of living here.

I was also deeply moved by those on the mainland who had never met us before yet demonstrated such a willingness to show up for two people in the middle of a harrowing experience. It’s easy for me to slip into despair thinking about our country’s descent into political alienation, mass violence and removal of basic human rights. That feeling of hopelessness diminishes when I experience us treating each other with compassion. It reminds me there is still integrity in this world that connects to one another.