Their story is our story.

Strong ties

Merrilyn Mastrud can’t remember a time when the lives of her family weren’t intertwined with St. Charles’ medical facilities.

Her mother, Jessie Ross, started working as a nurse at St. Charles before giving birth to Merrilyn at the old hospital on the hill in 1937. And in 2000, Zerik Elbek, Mastrud’s great-grandson, became the fourth generation of her family to come into the world at St. Charles.

“That’s where we’ve always gone,” Mastrud said. “I just think it’s really a great hospital.”

Before Merrilyn was born, her mother worked for the old Lumberman’s Hospital, an emergency clinic set up by the Shevlin-Hixon Company to care for its sick and injured workers. Sometime in the 1930s, she joined St. Charles, a relationship that continued until her retirement in 1977. During her career, Ross worked in three hospital buildings that carried the St. Charles name. Most of those years she spent on the medical floors of the hospitals.

“She loved her work. She liked the old people,” Mastrud said.

As a child, Mastrud remembers a tight community surrounding the hospital and occasionally visiting the hospital and the people who worked there. She got to know many of the nurses and doctors.

Though Mastrud didn’t follow in her mother’s footsteps as a nurse, she returned to the hospital in 1958 to give birth to her first child, Vickie, and again in 1960 and 1964 to have sons Lane and Steve.

After witnessing the birth of her great-grandchild at St. Charles Medical Center in 2000, Mastrud was impressed with the stark difference 40 years made in the medical field’s approach to child birth. When her children were born, Mastrud said she was wheeled on a gurney into a stainless steel and tile room with bright lights and the medical staff in masks. Her husband, harry, was not allowed to be with her.

“It was just like going to surgery,” she said.

Even in 1979, when Vickie’s daughter, Angie, became the third generation born at the hospital. Birthing was done in a surgical setting. However, by that time, fathers were allowed to be with the mother, Mastrud said.

So when Mastrud witnessed a birth at St. Charles 2000-style, the homey atmosphere of the Family Birthing Center impressed her. The father, family and close friends could be there. Such was the setting for the birth of Angie’s child, Zerik.

“It’s so nice to have the father there,” she said.

Besides birthing, Mastrud’s family ties with St. Charles Medical Center and the greater medical community of Central Oregon have spread into other areas. Vickie is a nurse for a home-care firm in Bend.

And after surviving breast cancer in 1999, Merrilyn Mastrud has joined St. Charles Navigator Program with the hope of giving back to the medical community that has meant so much to her and her family. Navigators are breast cancer survivors who guide and mentor other women with the disease through the treatment and healing process.

“I had a lot of people help me, and I would like to help other people. It’s a small way I can give back.”

Date: December 7, 2017