Della Bechen today in her Flandreau home.
Jean Green volunteers on a regular basis at the hospital she worked at for 47 years.
If you’ve ever been to the doctor for anything serious, you know quality health care providers - the ones that take care of you not only medically but also personally - are an absolute gem.
For a lot of families in the Moody County area, Della Bechen was a face they came to rely on during some of the best and, quite honestly, some of the toughest times in their lives.
While she’s been retired now for over 20 years, Bechen started working as a nurse at what is now Avera Flandreau Hospital back in 1952. She has helped deliver several generations of new families, been a critical team member in countless surgeries, seen aging community members through their final hours and done just about everything in-between.
“When I first came here, it was a small hospital so we had some nursing home beds on the east side. The other side was the regular hospital and we had all kinds of care here, medical, surgical, we did it all. They still do,” said Bechen.
She laughs as she thinks back over the number of babies she’s helped deliver over the years.
“I remember one woman told me... when she was delivering her baby, I put an x on her stomach. I said, well, that’s where I know to listen for your baby’s heart! Well, she’s here in this place now, too, this same nursing home. She has eight children. I didn’t deliver them all, though,” Bechen said, laughing some more.
As Avera Flandreau Hospital gets set to celebrate a grand-reopening of its new facility this week, Della was surprised to learn she is one of those thought of as a critical part of the hospital’s success over the years.
Jean Green also came to mind for Avera administrators when they thought about some of the staff that’s sincerely been a large part of the hospitals success in Moody County.
While not as visible on the floor and in giving patient care as Bechen, Green’s many roles behind the scenes have absolutely contributed to the hospitals impact on the community.
Green started working at the hospital as a bookkeeper back in 1960, just out of high school. By the time she retired 47 years later, she had worked in x-ray, done medical records coding and transcription, acted as the business office manager, the assistant administrator and filled in as interim administrator close to 15 times while replacements were sought.
And, she’s not done yet. Even in retirement, Green is still at the hospital each week, working as a volunteer. “That’s just home, I’ve been there so many years. After retiring in 2007, I mainly went back because I wanted to help. I know a lot of the people, all of the doctors, the staff and patients. I just enjoy helping where there’s a need,” said Green.
Both Green and Bechen plan to be on hand this week at Avera Flandreau Hospital as the official ribbon is cut on a facility both say will serve our region well for generations to come.
“There are still a lot of people that feel they have to go out of town to get good care. We have excellent providers here for medical care, the lab staff is efficient, the physical therapy is one of the best, and the people, especially, they’re just top notch. And, this hospital is important. The trend is going away from inpatient, no one stays in the hospital no matter where you’re at anymore. The outpatient care that we offer, that you can get right here close to home now, it really is tremendous,” said Green.
Green, who lost her husband in recent years to a rare form of cancer, says she knows now firsthand, how wonderful it is to have a facility like we do in town.
“You realize it more after you’ve had an illness and all the trips you’ve taken to Sioux Falls or Rochester because they couldn’t get things here. Even the chemo, now they are doing it where you can go to the big city for a day and finish the rest here, finish in a smaller community. For people to not have to go to Sioux Falls, especially the elderly, this is a wonderful resource,” Green added.
Bechen echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve been a patient myself recently and, I am real pleased with the improvements. I went in and almost got lost,” she laughed. “But you know, this is about the third improvement it’s gone through. We went away back in the 50’s and when we came back, they had changed it then. I thought, this is really nice at that time.”
Bechen says she now appreciates firsthand, being able to get quality care close to home and the staff at Avera has made her feel like a queen.
She trusts she provided the same quality care to others in this rural South Dakota community over the years.
“It’s a little bit more, you know the people, they’re not just a patient, they’re someone you know. I was in an army hospital, spent 50 years in nursing, retired in 1991. I enjoyed working with the families and patients here and giving them special care. Here, you call people by their name, they’re not just a number.”
Avera Flandreau Hospital is now officially, fully open. If you have any questions or couldn’t make the tour but still want to see what the new facility will offer Flandreau and the surrounding communities, please call (605) 997-2433.