Letter to the Editor: The Waukon community is a special place

To the Editor:

Waukon and its surrounding community is a special place; I know, as it was my hometown for the first 18 years of my life. And for the past 46 years that I have lived elsewhere, in my heart it has always been my hometown.

Very recently I had an opportunity to experience my hometown in a new way, one I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but then again it was the perfect place to have it happen. My mom, Abigail Osterholm, died Saturday, November 18 at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon. Her six kids, their spouses and significant others, many grandkids and even some great-grandkids spent the final six days of her life in her hospital room, surrounding her with love, compassion and even lots of humorous stories.

That old saying that “all’s well that ends well” couldn’t be more appropriate to describe my mom’s journey through life. It’s hard to imagine that you could call my mom’s life anything but a great success given how much love surrounded her in her final days - by family, friends, colleagues and even her caregivers.

Thus the purpose of this letter: to acknowledge and offer heartfelt appreciation to the many caregivers, as well as the institutions where those caregivers work, for the wonderful and loving care for both my mom and her family in those last months, then weeks and finally days, of her life. I know that most people in the Waukon area appreciate and understand the gift that Southcrest Manor, the Good Samaritan Nursing Home and Veterans Memorial Hospital represent to our loved ones.

My entire public health career has been spent working in and with health care settings around the world. I have worked with some of the most recognized medical institutions in the world, including our own Mayo Clinic and Gunderson Clinic. I have experienced high-tech, cutting-edge medicine at these clinics as well as places like the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea (supported by the same family that brings you the latest in electronics like cell phones, computers, audiovisual equipment and appliances), Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and the London Clinic in London, England. If you want the most current high-tech medical treatment in the world, consider one of these institutions.

But if you want some of the world’s most compassionate, cutting-edge nursing care - the kind of care that you can only dream of having for your loved one at the end of life - then Southcrest, the Good Sam and Veterans Memorial are the places you want to be. I can’t overstate how these wonderful places and the special people who work there provided the most loving, kind and comfortable care for my mom, while at the same time that care was state-of-the art as she needed. The doctors, nurses, nurse’s aides and housekeeping, ambulance, maintenance, dietary, social service and administrative staffs were incredible in providing my mom and our family exactly what we all needed in my mom’s final months and, specifically, her final days.

It’s difficult for me to even write this letter without welling up with emotion - an emotion laced with gratitude and appreciation. I knew Waukon was very special a long, long time ago, but I had no real idea of how special until these recent weeks. For everyone in this community who is not associated with the health care and long-term care facilities, never forget what the women and men who work there provide our loved ones every day. It’s a gift. And my family and I thank you with the very deepest gratitude.

Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH
Regents Professor
McKnight Endowed Presidential Chair in Public Health
Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy
Distinguished University Teaching Professor Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health
Professor, Technological Leadership Institute College of Science and Engineering
Adjunct Professor, Medical School University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN


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