Frightened, confused and alone — even while surrounded by the emergency services team at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital — Cyndee Martin was asked to make a quick decision that could potentially impact her health and even her life. She locked eyes with a nurse she recognized and found the strength and trust to decide.
Months later, Martin shared her praise for the small-town hospital with access to big-city services, which helped her to survive a stroke and begin a new phase of her life.
About eight years earlier, after a divorce, Martin relocated to the Central Oregon coast, living first in Lincoln City then moving to Newport. With extended family in the Willamette Valley and beyond, Cyndee began cultivating friendships locally, working a part-time retail job and exploring new activities.
One of these activities is volunteering at the Newport hospital.
“I had just started making this feel like my home and a lot of it has to do with the people that I’m associated with at the hospital,” Martin said with a smile. “It’s a great place to volunteer. The people are so wonderful, and we do a lot of things together.”
Martin was trained to work the front desk, assist in the Emergency Department, and to be a comforting presence for patients who have no family or friends with them in the hospital during the last days of their lives.
“I find so much joy in being a volunteer at the hospital. I’m around a great group of people and I go home feeling really fulfilled,” she said. “It’s a truly wonderful experience for me.”
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, volunteers were not allowed to serve in the hospital for many months, for their own safety.
“A lot of people found themselves a little lost because it’s such a big part of our lives,” Martin said.
However, Martin unexpectedly found herself back inside the hospital walls, a few months into the pandemic — this time as an emergency patient herself.
Martin recalled that frightening day: It was early on a Tuesday morning and she was reading her emails.
“I had a cup of coffee sitting there and I went to reach for my coffee with my left hand and my hand wouldn’t go to my cup, so I called my mother. She in turn called my roommate and he called the ambulance, and they were there faster than — I don’t even know — I just turned around and they were there.”
Arriving by ambulance to the hospital, Martin said she was very confused and didn’t know what was happening to her.
“I thought I felt fine, but my body wasn’t working properly. I was surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses and they said that they thought I was having a stroke, so they got a neurologist on a camera (telehealth) and he confirmed what the ER physician had already diagnosed — that I was having a stroke,” she said.
A stroke happens when a blood clot stops or restricts the blood supply to the brain, causing brain cells to die. Quick medical action can reduce brain damage and other complications. Martin would need to have an injection of tPA, a clot-busting drug that could restore function — but which also carries the risk of brain bled and even death.
In the blur of activity, Martin looked around and saw a familiar face, Emergency Department nurse Rexanne Payne.
“I instantly felt safe, just eye to eye with Rex, and I told her, ‘I’m going to trust you because I’m scared, I don’t know what to do,’ and she never let go of my hand.”
Staff were able to get Martin’s son on the phone and everyone agreed to give Martin the injection within the “golden hour” of time, when medical intervention is critical to reducing stroke damage.
“Everyone worked so quickly to do all of this. Within about 30 or 45 minutes, my arm started working. I had control again,” she recalled. “Everyone did every step correctly and saved me from months of physical therapy. They’re wonderful.”
Martin is at risk for another stroke, so she continues to receive care from a “great team of doctors,” she said. “So, I’m just doing what they tell me to do and I feel great. I was up and running within a week.”
In replaying the events in her mind, Martin added: “Our hospital is a small, rural hospital which I think makes some people kind of leery. Well, I’ll tell you something. Through volunteering there and being a patient there, this is a group of extraordinary people who work as a team, who are caring. I feel so safe going there. I just feel really fortunate.”