A history of life and death
July 3, 2008 · Updated 7:49 PM
"It shouldn't come as a surprise that the story of health care on Whidbey Island is a human story, full of the drama of babies born and lives saved, thick with the grief of lives cut short or the heady relief of recovery, against all odds.Yet historian Theresa Trebon's new book, which traces 150 years of medical care on Whidbey Island, is full of surprises. Trebon began, in December of last year, with a simple commission: to write the history of Whidbey General Hospital, from 1957 to the present. What she ended with, only a few months later, is a book that goes to the heart of the island. Trebon brings the past 150 years into clear focus and tells dozens and dozens of life and death stories mined from the diaries and letters of early settlers and gathered from the long memories of island old-timers.A Common Need: Whidbey General Hospital and the History of Medical Care on Whidbey Island, may not sound like a page-turner, but it is.It is also unusual in that it tells the story of the whole island. I think it's fair to say that this is the first book that takes a look at the island community as a whole over the past 150 years, Trebon said last week. The need for a hospital pulled the community together from Deception Pass to the South end. Trebon found that most people think the story began with the drive to build Whidbey General Hospital that began in the late 1950s, so it was a revelation, she said, to find that it stretched all the way back to the first settlers. Nothing is new, Trebon said. You only have to look at the letter from an Indian agent in 1857 writing to the Washington Territorial Governor and asking for a hospital.When the island's first long-term doctor, John Kellogg, arrived in the spring of 1854, one of his early patients was little Hetty Ebey, the baby daughter of Whidbey's first white settlers, Isaac and Rebecca Ebey, who came in 1850. By 1854, Rebecca had diedof tuberculosis and her infant daughter was so weak and sickly that the Kelloggs took her into their home to care for her.Right from the beginning, neighbors, family members, friends and the over-taxed doctors who came and went on Whidbey Island, stepped in to care for the sick. Over the years sanatoriums, short-lived hospitals, rest homes, maternity homes and women who offered in-home medical care came and went. But it would be more than a century before the island got a hospital of its own. Trebon has traced that history - and what it meant for the people who lived here - in meticulous, and often riveting, detail. She will be at Whidbey General Hospital to present a slide show based on her book and sign copies Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m.The book is available from Whidbey General Hospital. Price: $23. For information, call 678-5151 ext. 3350.-----------Hospital history slide showHistorian and author Theresa Trebon Trebon will present a slide show about Whidbey Island's health care history, and sign copies of her new book, A Common Need, Whidbey General Hospital and the History of Medical Care on Whidbey Island, 1850-2000, Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 7 p.m., Whidbey General Hospital, Coupeville. "