Testimonial: Carl "Ole" Gifford

Sept. 4, 2013, was a bad day for Carl “Ole” Gifford. Ole was on the job in a trench cutting pipes when the saw he was using kicked back and cut his windpipe in two, just missing major arteries.

“I didn't think I'd see another day in my life,” Ole said.

He was transported to CMH, where Dr. Michael Mitchell and Dr. Robert Wayne stabilized him for the long ambulance ride to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland. The doctors at Emanuel later told the Giffords that Ole was the only person they'd ever seen survive this injury and that he was alive thanks to the care he received from first responders and CMH's doctors.

“I can't explain why I'm even here today because I should be 6-feet under,” Ole said. “The decisions they made saved my life.”

Just three weeks after the accident, the Ole shared his story with CMH. Watch the video below:

Carl "Ole" Gifford

Astoria, Oregon

Back to top.

Testimonial: Sonnie Straw

WORDS CAN'T EXPRESS MY THANKS. A message from a grateful mother.

I am sitting here crying, thinking about what your hospital did this past June. You really have no idea how my husband and I feel about your hospital – the staff there saved my son's life, a 19 year old who was stationed in Astoria with the US Coast Guard.

When I got the call from Asher that he had a spinal infection and had been admitted to the hospital, I was in shock. I couldn't think straight and was standing at my desk in Temecula, California (outside of San Diego) shaking. My husband, who was out of town on business, was trying to calm me down over the phone as he made the plane arrangements to get us both to Astoria, Oregon. That was the worse time in my life – to know my child was so far away, in a small town, facing this alone.

My son had been having pain for three months prior to being sent to Columbia Memorial Hospital for an MRI. I owe much gratitude to the Coast Guard doctor (Dr. Shin) for sending him to Columbia in the first place. An MRI was done very quickly and my son was immediately hospitalized.

The MRI was performed on Monday, June 23, he was hospitalized and operated on the following day.

My husband and I flew to be with him on that Monday. Honestly, we were concerned with this type of surgery being performed at your hospital – a one story hospital in a rural beachside community and by a doctor that had just opened the new CMH Orthopaedic clinic. Boy were we wrong, I'm embarrassed now to think that I had those negative thoughts.

After arriving in Portland we drove to Astoria, arriving at the hospital at 2:00 AM. It was so late, I thought I was going to have to battle the nurses to see my son. Again, I was so wrong. They were great, never once saying anything to us about us coming in so early in the morning. They knew we were tired and helped us find a hotel and even gave us food out of the "nurses frig" telling us to help ourselves any time.

We had a wonderful, wonderful nurse, Jesse Meyer, that was with Asher the majority of the time. She was the sweetest thing and was so personable to Asher, I really felt we had a personal bond with her while we were there.

We were there six days, not leaving Asher's side except to go to the cafeteria or to sleep at night. The "Mom" in my took over, wanting to care for him – wash his face, change his clothes, etc., I was shown where everything was and told to help myself.

The tech that did Asher's echogram (Daryl Greaser) a few days after the surgery (avid outdoors guy – hiking, rock climbing, etc.) was just awesome too. He spent so much time with us while he was completing the procedure – answering every single question I had.

The staff at CMH were very sweet and treated us with the same respect that we try to treat others. The nicest compliment we received (which might seem weird to others) was, as told to us by one of the staff members, "Everyone at CMH thinks this couldn't have happened to a nicer family." I thought that was the sweetest thing in the world. Yes, it was terrible and Asher could have died and/or been a quadriplegic, but we were told they couldn't believe the strong family unit we had and how much everyone enjoyed us. Nobody had to say that – they could have performed their "jobs" and said "hello" and "goodbye" only, but that was never the case.

What a wonderful hospital and staff – everyone, from the food service department (that made him pizza as a special request) to the nurses, technicians, doctors, etc., everyone was great.

We wanted to stay in Astoria because of the hospital and how well they took care of Asher and us. As much as we were thrilled to go home, we were also apprehensive because we would no longer have the staff at CMH, who we trusted so much, working with us. We really feel that your hospital has a large staff of employees that any other hospital would be lucky to have!

By the way, when we were leaving, we were scared leaving. I was given a piece of paper (lined paper) and written by hand was every number I could have asked for – nurses station, names, hospital staff, doctors and phone numbers and even the phone numbers for the San Diego area incase anything happened prior to getting Asher home. Nobody had to do that for me!

Asher is now home with us as he needs medical care for the next six-to-eight weeks (24 hour IV line hooked up) and is doing great! Although, I miss the care provided to him in Astoria. Yesterday I took Asher to the ER due to some pain he was feeling – after 3 1/2 hours of sitting in the ER waiting room the ER doctor asked what I "thought they could do for him?" I would just really like to acknowledge Columbia Memorial Hospital, your community and your staff.

Sonnie Straw

Temecula, California

Back to top.

Testimonial: Debbie Morrow

You recognize a hospital's standards and very quickly when you are around them as often as we are!

Our twins Mathew and Jessica were born in 1994, two and a half months early. We spent the first four months of their lives at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland. Mathew has life-long disabilities, has had 26 surgeries since his birth, and will always require follow-up care.

When the twins were three my husband retired from the Coast Guard. We are both from the San Diego area and at first we considered moving back home. Our families would have loved to have us back, but we had also fallen in love with the North Coast. We had also spent three years developing a network of providers, therapists, and hospitals that would give us the quality of care Mathew needed. We had a tough decision to make.

In the end, the decision was easy. We had the best of all worlds right here in Astoria.

The more we used the ER at Columbia Memorial Hospital, the more the value of that relationship was apparent. Columbia Memorial Hospital works well with Doernbecher, OHSU and Shriners. When we call the Emergency Room they know us, they know my sons case personally. Columbia Memorial Hospital is an important part of a team that is vital to our son's health and well-being.

We have a valued relationship with Columbia Memorial Hospital. Not just with the doctors, but also with registration, the lab, radiology, the therapists, the nurses, even the cafeteria staff know who we are. That's pretty cool. You just can't get that in a big city hospital.

You can't place a value on the care we receive at Columbia Memorial Hospital.

Mathew is doing awesome! He and his sister are 13 now, 8th graders, going into high school next year.

My husband Chris has been a surfer for 50 years. I told him the other night, "You know Chris… no amount of sunshine or big waves are worth the peace of mind that I get from knowing Columbia Memorial Hospital is a true partner in the care of our children."

Debbie Morrow

Warrenton, Oregon

Resident since 1990

Back to top.

Testimonial: Gin Laughery

A Ray of SUNSHINE in a difficult situation!

I was recuperating at home from major surgery and began to experience chest pain which I dismissed as a muscle spasm. I talked with a good friend, a nurse, who came over to visit and brought her stethoscope with her. When she couldn't hear any breath sounds in my lower right lung we called my doctor, who wanted me to get it checked out.

We immediately went to the emergency department at Columbia Memorial Hospital. The ER physicians and staff were phenomenal, absolutely the best. Without their quick action I could have died. After a CT scan found multiple embolisms, I was admitted and my recovery started immediately.

Being at Columbia Memorial Hospital was quite an experience. No one wants to spend a week in the hospital, but they did so much to help me recover. The nursing staff was like a ray of sunshine every time they entered my room. I really felt cared for.

My husband was able to visit anytime day or night and was comforted to know the kind of help I was receiving. He was encouraged to bring our dogs, one at a time, to visit. As an avid gardener I find a great deal of solace in a garden, the beauty and tranquility is healing. We were able to sit and talk, enjoy each other and the company of our dogs in the hospital's meditation garden. It was all such a large part of my healing experience.

I want to thank Columbia Memorial Hospital for the care and the experience. Even though it is not where I wanted to be, my visit was full of positive memories.

Gin Laughery

Astoria Resident since 1981

Back to top.

Testimonial: Betty Smith

I had a LIFE THREATENING medical emergency!

I was very concerned! Would I receive the BEST medical care available?


In 2004 my doctor had me rushed to the emergency department at Columbia Memorial Hospital. From the moment I was admitted, he was in direct contact with one of the top gastroenterologists in the Portland area. Columbia Memorial Hospital and my doctor coordinated everything I needed from the moment I walked in until I was released. My family and I had the peace of mind that I was receiving the best care available. My husband continued his work schedule, took care of our animals and came to see me every day. My co-workers were able to come, even my dog. None of that would have been possible if I had been rushed to Portland. I received all the care I needed, in Astoria, at Columbia Memorial Hospital.

I just can't say enough about the care and the nurturing I received. I am very grateful to Columbia Memorial Hospital for the care they gave me.

Betty Smith

Gearhart, Oregon

Resident since 1997

Back to top.

Testimonial: Skip Hauke

If it hadn't been for Columbia Memorial Hospital I would not be here now!

For a town our size we are fortunate to have a facility like Columbia Memorial Hospital. The quality of doctors we have is outstanding. It is something I don't take for granted anymore. A few years ago I had a heart attack and was taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital. I was quickly life flighted to Portland. Some folks would say I wasn't treated at Columbia Memorial – but I was. I was having a heart attack. When I got to the ER, they stabilized me and got me to the right place quickly. I respect their decision, it undoubtedly saved my life. When I arrived in Portland, the first thing the people who receive patients asked the attendants from the helicopter was "Where is he coming from?" They said "Columbia Memorial in Astoria."

Their first words were, "No problem then, they always have their patients stabilized and always do a wonderful job." That said a lot about our hospital. I'm sure they don't say that about every hospital.

I feel so comfortable going to Columbia Memorial Hospital. My experience just gave me one more reason to be so very proud to call Columbia Memorial… OUR HOSPITAL!

Skip Hauke

Astoria, Oregon

Resident since birth

Back to top.