Brenda B.

Brenda B.

Brenda Bruner’s response to the H1N1 flu was more severe than most people experience. She had been taking medication for psoriasis, her only health concern, aware that one risk associated with this medication is that it lowers the body’s ability to fight infections. The flu, seizing its opportunity, attacked Brenda’s vulnerable body with force.

A resident of Umatilla, Oregon, Brenda was seen at a nearby hospital and was immediately transferred to OHSU; the Emergency Department staff realized the infection had invaded Brenda’s blood stream and was traveling throughout her body, affecting all her organs. Within a week, her lungs and kidneys shut down and she was in total organ failure. Brenda’s family was told, grimly, that she had only about a 10% chance of survival. In fact, Brenda later recalls being beckoned by the same bright, white light that others have cited during near-death experiences.

The capacity to will oneself well is only marginally understood, but Brenda knows what it’s like to fight through tragedy. Both her son and her father preceded her in death at OHSU, and she was fierce in her personal determination not to be another Bruner statistic.

Against all odds, Brenda survived, and was transferred to Vibra Specialty Hospital where she still faced many limitations. Though she had triumphed over the ominous survival rate she was originally given, she remained medically fragile, tethered to a daunting array of lines, tubes, and drains.

Vibra’s clinical team worked seamlessly throughout its various medical specialties and full clinical offerings. Together they were all in pursuit of a common objective: getting Brenda Bruner home. Brenda was a partner, too, in this inter-disciplinary approach. “Brenda took ownership of her health,” recalls Dr. Tanya Epley, a hospitalist at Vibra. “She had a positive attitude, and a kind of inner spark that never went out.”

Though initially hesitant to leave the security of OHSU, Brenda later acknowledged that Vibra offered her the best chance possible to continue her recovery. “Tanya Epley is the most beautiful, loving, and caring doctor I have ever known.” She also talks affectionately about Melinda Stencil, one of Vibra’s registered nurses, who was undeterred in her focus on Brenda’s needs, always
managing to stay one step ahead of care plan. With awe and respect, she adds, “Dave Tupper visited me often, just to check in. How many other hospital CEOs do that?”

Now at home after her long and difficult battle, Brenda remembers, “I just did everything in my power to be there, to be present. I had to fight.” Sustained by the love of family and the prayers of thousands, she continues to get stronger every day, and says with the personal fortitude that has come to define her, “I didn’t come this far to fail.”