Finding Angels in Unexpected Places

Karen Riske, a resident of Vancouver, Wash., was looking forward to a much needed break from her busy professional life. With her young daughter in tow, she headed for the county fair in the charming coastal town of Tillamook, Ore.

“It was early August and the heat in Vancouver was stifling,” recalled Riske. “I was looking forward to spending time with my family and enjoying some cooler weather.”

A brief two-hour drive later, Riske met up with her mom, sister and other members of her family to spend a leisurely afternoon looking at exhibits and enjoying the guilty pleasures of fair food. The latter was a top priority, as Riske was eating for two. Just a week earlier, her physician had assured her that all was well with her pregnancy, and she was on schedule to deliver her baby in late fall.

“My pregnancy had been a breeze, and there was no reason to believe that things just wouldn’t progress normally,” Riske explained. “I made the trip to Tillamook never imagining that it would end up being the scariest experience of my life.”

Riske was meandering through the exhibits when she suddenly was overcome with pain. At first she thought it might be indigestion from the junk food she had consumed that day, but when she started bleeding profusely she knew something was terribly wrong.

Her mother noticed a nearby ambulance and quickly hailed the paramedics, who discovered that Karen’s blood pressure was dangerously high. They rushed her to Tillamook County General Hospital (TCGH) where nurse Teya Pillar—recognizing Riske’s distress—helped her to labor and delivery. Riske’s placenta had ruptured and was tearing away from her uterus wall, putting both her and her baby in jeopardy.

“From the moment I arrived, Teya became my guardian angel,” said Riske. “I was in such distress because I knew I was barely 28 weeks pregnant and the risks of delivering at this stage were alarming.”

Riske’s fears were compounded by the fact that she was miles away from her home, her husband and her health care providers. To make matters worse she would have to undergo an emergency C-section not knowing if she’d even have a baby when she awoke from the procedure. But thanks to a talented team of caregivers, the operation was a success and little Jackson entered the world, weighing in at just three pounds, one ounce.

“Everything happened so fast, and I just remember thinking, ‘This is a small hospital in a small town, and they’re not going to know how to take care of me and my baby.’ But they did!" Riske reported. "The expertise of doctor Fred Roesener and the calming spirit of nurse Teya were so assuring… I was truly amazed at the skill and compassion of the staff at this small community hospital.”

Today, Jackson is a thriving and active eight-month-old who is adored by his five older siblings and hailed as a miracle baby by his loving parents. And he’s already made the trip to TCGH to meet the nurses and doctors who brought him into this world and fought so hard to make sure he survived.

“I will never forget the kind people at TCGH and the wonderful care that Jackson and I received there,” Riske declared. “They saved our lives, and for that I will be eternally grateful.”

April 01, 2006 / Adventist Health