Guest Blogger: Sarah Higginbotham, Oregon Government Relations Director
Recently, I have had an opportunity to connect with a special kind of survivor: those who live in rural Oregon.
From Deschutes County in the high desert of Central Oregon, to Umatilla County in the rugged, wheat-growing region of Eastern Oregon, our fellow Oregonians living in these regions face unique challenges when it comes to caring for their health.
Their challenges become even greater when managing the effects of cardiovascular disease or stroke. With fewer hospitals and fewer providers, time and distance to receive care can be much longer.
In particular, I had the great privilege of meeting two incredible women—both survivors living east of Oregon’s more populated western corridor.
Both were willing to discuss their challenges with health care and to stand with the AHA to call for improvements in rural Oregon. They share an impressive self-sufficiency and a deep pride in their community.
Anne of La Pine knows that in addition to ensuring stroke survivors have access to the consistent rehabilitation therapy, access to public transportation is just as important for her and her husband. While she has great admiration for her various medical providers, systematic improvements could be made to help her coordinate care between them.
Cathy, whose family roots go back generations in Umatilla County, will tell you that she doesn’t like to complain—she does the things that need to be done, and knows that things can be even tougher for others. Cathy, like many survivors, has the daunting task of managing multiple prescriptions to treat her heart condition and diabetes. As a caregiver to family members also managing chronic conditions (including her son, a stroke survivor), Cathy also sees to the appointments and needs of her loved ones.
The AHA advocates for the care of all Oregonians with decision makers in DC and in the state—but that advocacy would fall flat if it weren’t for brave survivors like Anne and Cathy being willing to speak up.
We have the deepest gratitude and appreciation for their recent efforts—and I feel lucky to have met them. They took the time and energy to go the extra mile to join our advocacy efforts—and like everything else for them—they had to work go a little further than many of us to do so.
If you are a survivor or know survivors of heart disease or stroke anywhere in Oregon, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at Sarah.Higginbotham@heart.org.
Here’s to the survivors in Oregon’s more rugged and absolutely inspiring landscapes!