A map of Alaska with the Southcentral region highlighted.
Organization: Sunshine Community Health Center
City: Talkeetna
Region: Southcentral
Program Area: Health \ Regional health
Grants Received:
2012: $10,000  1999: $5,400
2011: $259,615  1998: $4,000
2002: $287,500  1997: $2,696
2000: $10,775

It's really just "The Clinic"

Mission Statement
Sunshine Community Health Center

Sunshine Community Health Center will assist people in the Upper Susitna Valley to meet their health care responsibilities by providing affordable, accessible, quality health care, including preventative aspects, to all people regardless of their ability to pay for services.
Its official title is "Sunshine Community Health Center" but it's really just The Clinic.

It has been around since I was in elementary school. 25 years.

Back then, medical care meant either a drive to Anchorage or a call to the paramedics. The Clinic started in an office above the Troopers, and has traveled around a bit, finally coming to stop in its bright new home on the Spur Road. Now, it has exam rooms. Medication refills. An x-ray machine. A dentist!

I'm recuperating from an abscessed tooth. Sunday afternoon I was fine, but towards the end of the day the pain had me curled on the couch, breathing slowly and holding ice to my rapidly swelling face.

I called The Clinic and arranged to meet Mary, the doctor, at the side door. It was snowing. I pulled up to The Clinic drive, and followed the single set of tracks in to park at the side door next to Mary's car.

An exterior photo of Sunshine Community Health Clinic. Spacer Image Someday, the board and clinic staff hopes the side entrance and its exam rooms will be an "official" emergency facility. A mini emergency room. Sunday, there were no ambulances, nurses or waiting wounded. But the door was open, golden light glowing through the snow, and Mary was there with sympathy and directives.

The next day, The Clinic called me. Chris at the desk said Tina, the dentist, wanted to see me as soon as possible. I went back, this time in the front door with the others - children awaiting sport physicals and limping woodcutters. A little girl asking her daddy if the dentist did "owwies". I promised I'd report back to her. A baby played with the extensive toy collection that once had The Clinic labeled as "The Toy Store" by my youngest son. There's a magnetic sand table. That one is my favorite.

I went back to the room with the songbirds painted on the walls. It's so peaceful you hardly notice the fancy chair or x-ray machine or little tray of what look like medieval torture devices.

A photo of a hallway in the Sunshing Community Health Clinic. Spacer Image Tina and her team made sympathetic noises while paying respects to my swollen face. Misti, Tina's assistant, asked me a radio station question. Mary wanted to know how my daughter was doing in Thailand. Tracy the hygienist asked how my son's shirt had recovered, after a demonstration of "sugar bugs" on his teeth, using real purple dye, went horribly wrong.

They're like family, only their advice works.

I got two hugs before I went home. Gave the little girl in the waiting room a thumbs up and misshapen Elephant Man smile as I went past.

The next day, I woke up sicker, and when Chris called to check on me, I was almost in tears. Another phone call had a neighbor who works at The Clinic dropping off new antibiotics. I didn't have to shift myself from my nest on the couch, and they all knew where I lived.

Two days later brought another trip to the room with the songbirds; some exchanged jokes about talking with my mouth full. Me, trying once again to spot the inchworm in the painting on the wall; and soon I had one tooth less than I came with.

My instructions were not to haul water or wood for a few days.

To ask a neighbor to shovel the snow that keeps falling, and falling, and falling.

To take it easy.

And oh hey, we'll stop by Saturday and see how you're feeling. Maybe our kids can play together in the snow. And are you going to Sarah's baby shower on Sunday?

Amanda Stossel is a lifelong Alaskan and award winning radio journalist in Talkeetna. She ran dogs, studied potato diseases, and guided hunters before her radio work. She collects adventures to feed her storytelling.