By Jessica Clark
In this day and age, health is something many of us take for granted, and public health isn’t something people think about much — until they need it.
Here in Friday Harbor, a group of wonderful nurses at the public health department are always there to help mums with their new-born babies, give endless flu shots in winter, and quickly respond to any disease outbreaks. When the head lice start crawling, people start whooping, or nutritional advice is needed for a growing toddler, these are the people we go to.
My mom has worked for the health department for 27 years. In that time she has supported three generations — from the parents of my schoolmates to the kids many of them are now having. There are few of us that haven’t had at least one vaccination given by Nurse Nancy. I estimate she has given well over 25,000 shots.
She’s been there to answer countless questions about breastfeeding, nutrition, and general baby health. She’s done more head-lice checks than anyone should ever have to do in a lifetime.
Unsurprisingly, mom didn’t leave her appreciation of good health at the office. I grew up eating fig newtons and bran flakes, got so relaxed about shots that I would go to work and beg for them, and got roped into deciding which sex-ed video was going to be shown to my classmates (you thought that watching one was bad?).
But growing up I also got an inside view of someone who really cares about our whole community — every kid, every client. The after-hours phone calls to new moms to check in, and home visits. The many trips to Seattle to keep up to date on the latest research and programs available. The frustrations at all the bureaucracy that could get in the way of providing resources many people take for granted.
And the little things, like finding ways to make things easier for people for whom English was not a first language, or helping get ferry tickets to people who needed them.
Last week, nurse Nancy retired.
Though I know many people will be sad to see her go, she leaves a wonderful team of nurses at the office, ready to help the next generation with equal enthusiasm.
At home, the garden is waiting and I imagine the food bank will have a lot more kale soon. I know she won't stop being an active, helpful part of island life, and I'm excited to see what she does next.
I’d like to give a huge thank you to my wonderful mom for supporting my community all these years, and wish her all the best with her next adventures.