This is a letter of grattitude to CPGH – Central Peninsula General Hospital where Jackie was treated.
The picture is of Dr. Crane, Jackie’s Doctor who took care of her so well and for whom we are all grateful.
Central Peninsula General Hospital
250 Hospital Place
Soldotna, AK 99669
I am Vashti Ataya, Virginia Brand’s mother. I feel like I am probably the only person on the planet who knows so many people at CPGH by name, and knows the phone number and all of the extensions by heart.
Virginia’s battle was long and messy. She was often not an “easy” patient. Having been a nurse for several years, I marveled at everything that unfolded and was pretty amazed and astounded at my daughter’s pluck and courage. Many, many times she approached the tunnel, and many, many times she came back. Everyone on staff at CPGH knew her, and spoke of her with a gentleness that is rare.
I got to see my daughter twice during her long illness. Three years ago I flew to Providence Hospital in Anchorage to be with her for a week. It was an amazing week. At one point she was told that her prognosis was probably six months, possibly less. After the man left (neither of us even knew who he was…) she looked up at me from the hospital bed and said, “Mom, how much time do YOU think I have?” I said, “Baby, you have as much time as you have ALWAYS had…you have a minute. This minute is all anyone ever has. Anybody who is not totally alive to this minute is dead already.”
She began living by the minute. If something occurred to her that she wanted to go do, she found a way to go do it. She began reaching back into the past and making amends in relationships. Being a prolific letter writer, she wrote long letters and expressed her thoughts so that there would be no doubts about where she stood with people that counted to her. She forgave old hurts, put down old grudges, and over and over she told people that ultimately the only thing that really mattered in life was love. She found ways to demonstrate her love that were unique to her and always made the recipients smile.
I commented while in Anchorage that Providence was a very nice hospital. She said, “Yeah, this is a nice place, but MY hospital is better cause they treat you like family.” When I was able to come and visit her again in September, I got to come to her hospital and get to see CPGH for myself. The first thing that struck me about the staff was how gentle they were with my daughter. To me she looked so frail and so fragile, that I even hesitated to give her a hug for fear that I would hurt her somehow. I also realized that staff members stopped by her room just to say hello, even when she was not their assigned patient. As Iwas walking through the corridors of the hospital, staff members approached me and said, “Are you Virginia Brand’s mother?” I would say yes and then we would talk a little. People assured me over and over again that she was valued, and cherished as a part of the CPGH family. It meant the world to me.
Virginia became a very important part of a very large internet community, Cyberdiet.com. The entire story is too long to put here, but suffice it to say that I went to the website in 1998 to find information about successful longterm weight loss, became part of the community, introduced my newfound friends to my daughter via snailmail, and she became a part of an international network of support. During the many times when she was in the hospital hemorrhaging in ICU, people all over the world lit candles and prayed for her. Knowing that she was terminally ill, people prayed for her comfort, for her ease, for her to be at peace. She came back to us so many times she was dubbed the “bounce back queen.” Her favorite saying was, “Ring death’s doorbell and run. Death hates that.”
Through it all, the staff at CPGH became family to her. I only got to meet Dr. Crane one time, and that was during my visit in September. Having been an O.R. nurse for many years, I have met and worked with many, many doctors. Never have I been so impressed with a doctor as I was with him. He sat and talked with me for what seemed like a long time. One the phone once I asked him, “How much longer can these hemorrhages gon on?” He said gently, “Until she has the last one.”
My daughter didn’t give her respect to very many people, but she respected Dr. Crane. To convey the depth of my gratitude with mere words is not possible, so that leaves me with just the two that are probably a bit worn and ragged around the edges…Thank You. Thank you CPGH staff. Thank you Dr. Crane. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for treating my daughter with love and with respect.
Virginia Brand’s mother