Healthcare Pride Stories
Loreen Ranals, OTR/L
From the farm, to the military, to Rural Health
My interest in the healthcare field began while being raised on a dairy farm in the 1960’s. When a cat or dog had an injured limb I would bandage it and watch for signs of healing. Our dad had aches and pains and would ask me to cover his legs with a blanket. This brought him happiness and it was a way of getting physically close to my stoic Norwegian dad.
I began to look into career fields. The U.S. Army recruited me and I wanted the medical field. To my surprise my mechanical ability was my strong area. Therefore I was placed in the field of orthotics. Being naïve I was unsure what it was, and learned that I liked designing custom braces for all ages of people. The field was narrow with only three women in the field of all Army personnel. As a caring and technical group we served post Viet Nam veterans, their families and all active duty service men and women. Gratifying feelings came from seeing the babies learn to walk after wearing the orthotics, which corrected their deformity.
From this I developed a keen interest in furthering my education in the area of rehabilitation. I then chose to leave military service. Once accepted into the occupational therapy program at a renown Christian university, my confidence grew. I was called to do God’s work and to be a medical professional. My experiences in university training prepared me for any specialty I would choose.
The West Coast of the United States offers many opportunities for medical development. I welcomed many of them and worked with young adults who were unfortunate enough to survive traumatic head and spinal cord injuries. Returning these patients to independent living was a joy, as inspiring as any experience I would have in my career. Simply stated, I loved what I was doing.
Oregon has its free-spirits and the independent ones. I met them while opening a community hospital’s first rehabilitation unit. Lumber-mill injuries were the theme there. Then, the southwestern Nevada casino/construction industry became my clientele. This is were I saw the devastation of drugs in the workplace. I treated patients who work on scaffolding at 60’ above ground who had fallen and required physical and chemical rehabilitation.
In 2005 I decided to return to my Midwest roots, which again provided a challenge, because of the rural setting. I know that we are needed everywhere in the country and world to serve our community and God’s children. I have had opportunities to motivate people toward more function, and learned to respect those who make other choices. Our healthcare is precious and needs to be preserved in our country. I am grateful to have been a part of this profession.