Ralph Waldo Emerson defines, "Success: To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded."
I have always loved this definition and wanted to make a difference, even if it meant taking a difficult or challenging job. I believe my skills and experiences make me uniquely qualified to be Walla Walla County coroner.
I am a registered nurse. Nursing is a wonderfully diverse profession, where one can practice in many settings, depending upon family circumstances or the ever-changing needs of health care. I was born into a ranching family in Malheur County in southeastern Oregon.
I was the fourth generation to live on my family's homestead. My father, a World War II veteran, raised cattle, alfalfa and grain, and leveled land. My mother was a teacher turned full-time mom. I graduated as valedictorian from Vale High School and, after attending Honors College at the University of Oregon, graduated from Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario with a nursing degree.
My family is vitally important to who I am: I'm the very proud mother of four and grandmother of six. I know the challenges, responsibilities and incredible pleasure children bring to our lives.
My nursing experience for the past 25 years has been in emergency room, medical/surgical, medical detox unit, correctional, physical rehabilitation, and administrative nursing. I have 11 years experience in operating rooms and endoscopy suites, obtaining, labeling, and tracking specimens and working as a circulating and scrub nurse.
I have assisted pathologists with many autopsies. I'm very skilled at drawing blood and starting IVs. I've been certified to administer chemotherapy and insert peripherally inserted central catheters lines and have taught emergency medical technician, IV therapy, nursing assistant classes and many other classes.
Many of my patients have been terminally ill, mentally ill or facing major health challenges. My knowledge of disease processes, anatomy, physiology, medications and the stages and nature of grief is knowledge the coroner needs.
The coroner's job is very difficult. The county coroner is given by state law jurisdiction over all deceased persons whose death is unexpected, unnatural, violent, suspicious, may be at the hand of the deceased or another, or resulted from unlawful means.
The coroner not only must speak for and protect the dignity of the deceased, but he or she interacts with families on what is one of the worst days of their lives. The coroner must work closely with the emergency medical system, law enforcement and funeral homes.
Death investigations by the coroner are independent of, and compliment and enhance, any investigation by law enforcement. Evidence and specimens obtained by the coroner must be processed properly and chain of custody maintained precisely for use by law enforcement and the coroner's department to obtain the truth.
Death is complicated. Medical records frequently must be reviewed, laboratory results interpreted, families interviewed and X-rays or scans obtained. The coroner makes the decision as to whether an autopsy needs to be performed or a coroner's inquest called. Autopsies are invasive, expensive (costing from $685 to $3,000 per autopsy) and very upsetting to those who love the deceased.
Nationwide autopsy rates have been dropping for years with rates of about 20 percent of reportable deaths usual. A qualified, well-trained coroner can save limited resources in these financially difficult times.
In Washington's 39 counties no current sitting coroner or medical examiner came into office without extensive experience in law (44 percent prosecuting attorneys in small counties), law enforcement (21 percent), health care (30 percent) or mortuary science (5 percent). The coroner should be knowledgeable, clear, tactful, and able to translate medical and legal terms into laymen's terms when he or she notifies a family of a devastating loss or explains an autopsy report.
These are skills I possess, as well as strong familiarity with hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, jails and prisons. (The Walla Walla County coroner deals with deaths, including executions at the Washington State Penitentiary because it is in our county.)
The coroner's office is an arm of county government. The coroner prepares a budget and submits it to the county commissioners. In addition to 10 years' experience preparing and managing nursing department budgets, I spent nine years on my local school committee and three years on the school budget board (Vale, Ore., School District No. 84) before I moved to Walla Walla County.
My computer and written skills are well developed. Walla Walla County is not currently using EDRS (Electronic Death Record System); it was not one of the 11 counties DOH initially made the system available to, but this will be implemented very soon.
Accurate, timely death certificates are the responsibility of the coroner. Correct cause of death impacts many things, including insurance payments to survivors.
I believe I am the best choice for coroner because of the totality of experience I can bring to the job.
I moved to Walla Walla County more than five years ago because I love a man who wouldn't live anywhere else. Now neither would I!
It would be a great honor to be Walla Walla County coroner to make a difference!