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Hospital foundation moves closer to $1 million goal

| February 1, 2005 11:00 PM

By Roger Morris Western News Publisher

St. John¹s Lutheran Hospital Foundation kicked off its annual fundraising effort Thursday night with lots of laughter, lots of tears and continued generosity.

The foundation has been working since September 2001 to raise $1 million in the permanent endowment fund. It currently sits at $776,000.

Stimson Lumber Co., Glacier Bank, Lincoln County Credit Union and First National Bank of Libby have joined together to challenge the community to raise funds.

Stimson, Glacier and LCCU are offering a match of $25,000. Stimson will match all donations up to $15,000 while Glacier and LCCU are matching all donations up to $5,000 each. The two financial organizations have agreed to donate $5,000 per year for the next five years for a combined pledge to the endowment of $50,000.

First National Bank donated the first $2,000 to start the 2005 fund-raising effort and has agreed to give $8,000 over the next four years.

³Once again we are humbled by the amount of support that the hospital receives from our communities,² said K.C. Hoyer, foundation executive director. ³These businesses, who have all historically supported our communities and whose employees are involved in many volunteer services, are once again reaching out by charitably sharing their profits to support a facility most of us just can not live without, St. John¹s Lutheran Hospital.²

Retired pharmacist Gene Havens gave testimony to that.

On Dec. 13, his wife Donna had just returned home from hip surgery when she called to him and then passed out. He called the Libby Volunteer Ambulance.

³I was still trying to get her off the floor when the ambulance arrived,² Havens told the dinner crowd.

At the hospital emergency room Dr. Jay Maloney took over treating Donna.

³I thought everything was going great when I saw the doctor pounding on her chest,² an emotional Havens continued. ³Her heart had stopped for a total of 10 minutes.²

Maloney kept working on Donna, and at one point the doctor came out and told Gene ³You better say goodbye.²

Havens said Maloney just kept working.

Other doctors arrived.

³I couldn¹t believe how many people worked on Donna that day,² Havens said. ³I counted 11 people around that gurney.²

Maloney administered medication to break up the blood clout causing the problem. A little later he explained to Gene that he was going to administer another stronger dose. It worked.

Finally, Maloney said that as soon as Donna¹s blood pressure was up and remained there for 30 minutes, ³We¹re flying,² Havens continued his story.

Donna was flown to Kalispell Regional Medical Center where a Cat-scan showed no brain damage and an x-ray showed no damage to Donna¹s heart.

³Here we are a little bitty community, a little bitty hospital,² Havens said. ³If this hospital wasn¹t here today, Donna wouldn¹t be here tonight. Our little hospital — we couldn¹t do without it.²

Sue O¹Riley, the Haven¹s daughter, spoke a few word choked out between sobs.

³At one time there were 18 people standing there,² she added to her father¹s story. ³I didn¹t know that many people worked at St. John¹s.

³The doctors in Kalispell told me that if Dr. Maloney didn¹t make the decisions he made when he made them, she (Donna) wouldn¹t be there.²

O¹Riley said, ³It¹s nice to know you can trust the people who are there. If we didn¹t have them, there are a number of in this town who wouldn¹t have survived car accidents or diseases.²

O¹Riley said she didn¹t know the hospital was supported by the community.

Gene Havens presented foundation chairman Gene Chappell with a donation.

Also on hand was Heidy Switzer, who was severely injured more than two years ago when the horse she was riding reared up and rolled over on top of her. She, too, was treated at the scene by LVA and treated at St. John¹s before being transported to a larger city hospital.

Humorist and musician Frank Kuntz of Missoula provided a change of mood for the banquet.

³I¹ve never met a town that fell in love with its hospital, I teared up,² Kuntz said. ³It¹s a town that just cares. There is a feeling here that is so special, so caring.²

Kuntz told jokes, played the piano and sang humorous songs.

In addition to the applause for Kuntz, the hospital kitchen staff received a standing ovation for preparing the meal served at the banquet.

The dinner was attended by more than 100 people.

³The dinner is our way of saying thank you to our donors and showing them just what their contributions are accomplishing,² Chappell said. ³When you actually hear of someone¹s life that was saved at our hospital, you really feel like your giving is doing something worthwhile.²

Hoyer noted that once the foundation¹s endowment reaches $1 million, only the interest will be spent on hospital equipment and other enhancements.

³The principal will never be touched, making this fund a perpetual savings account to help provide the type of medical services out communities require,² she said.

The foundation has mailed out letters seeking community contributions to match the funds committed by Stimson and the local financial institutions.