Sleeping bag on street

No Longer Alone
Story 127

By CJ Anderson

Each Wednesday, Adventist Health Portland chaplains meet to reflect on the week — how it’s going and what lies ahead. At a recent meeting, one chaplain broke down in tears.

A young woman who had been in the hospital for three days remained unidentified. She had arrived by ambulance after being found unresponsive and possibly overdosed in a Portland street. Passersby called 911 and attempted CPR.

The woman was estimated to be about 21 years old. The care management team reached out to Diana Erdmann, Adventist Health Portland nursing director, when their attempts to identify the patient had not produced any leads.

“My heart was heavy at the thought of this young woman not having loved ones around her during this time,” Erdmann shares. She reached out to Terry Johnsson, Mission Integration Executive at Adventist Health Portland, and asked him to leverage his community connections and knowledge to help them identify the patient.

Johnsson gathered all the information he could about where the patient had been found. He drove to the area and started canvassing homeless camps and businesses.

After visiting about seven camps, Johnsson finally caught a break. Someone at a nearby gas station knew the name the woman went by and where her camp was. There, Johnsson found the woman’s community — and discovered she was actually a teenager.

Due to the patient’s age, she was immediately transferred to Doernbecher Children's Hospital, part of OHSU Health along with Adventist Health Portland. Doernbecher has a team to help connect runaways with their families, and they went to work right away to reach the girl’s family. Soon, the former Jane Doe was surrounded by loved ones.

Johnsson visited the patient the next day and met her father. “You are an answer to my prayer,” he said. “Don’t let my baby die alone in the streets.”

The patient’s prognosis isn’t certain. But whatever happens next, she is no longer alone.

“Every now and then, you’re going to feel a little tug in your heart to do something special for a patient,” Johnsson says. “We need to just listen to that voice. That can be the change for someone.”