Woman honored for service
Helping others has always been a way of life for Eileen Knudson.
She first began volunteering at the early age of 13 when she worked with mentally challenged children, as well as at the Sunlight House – a home for deaf and blind children.
Since then, the registered nurse has continued to make regular trips to the Third World to offer medical care, as well as dedicated her time to expanded Tahoe Forest’s growing hospice operation.
Because of her many years of community service in her field, Eileen Knudson has been chosen by the Soroptimists International of Truckee Donner as this year’s Woman of Distinction.
“For me, at least with hospice, the patients have really been a motivating force,” Knudson said. “Being able to provide them with the best possible end of life care and services so that they can spend their last days peacefully is such a wonderful thing. Working with them is such a privilege as well because they have so much to teach us about life and about living each day to its fullest.”
Knudson first went into nursing in Boston, where she attended school. After graduation she worked at Boston City Hospital to gain a year’s experience before heading off to Ecuador for two years to work as a Peace Corp nurse.
During her time there she instituted a rabbit-raising program. The project was so successful that it provided financial stability for the small community and created funds to bring electricity into the town and build latrines for each home. Knudson’s work greatly helped to raise the health standards in this community.
With two years overseas experience, she was qualified to join an international relief organization and volunteered for one year in Somalia, where she worked at a refugee feeding camp.
During the Ethiopian famine in 1985, she was part of the first American medical team invited into the country. Knudson administered a feeding program for 10,000 starving people and built a makeshift facility for cholera patients.
During this time she also met her future husband, Tom, who was writing a story about the famine for the Des Moines Register.
Then in 1986, with funding from a Rotary Club, Knudson traveled to Pakistan where she did a need assessment at the refugee camps. She found that many arrived with frost bitten limbs and had to have amputations. When she returned home, she was able to convince major shoe companies to donate 10,000 pair of boots for those fleeing from Afghanistan.
Eventually Knudson and her husband settled in Truckee. They have one daughter, Kristen, and now a AFS student, Grace, from Ecuador.
Knudson now devotes most of her time working as a certified hospice and palliative nurse at Tahoe Forest Hospital. She is presently the Tahoe Forest Hospice Department Head.
When Knudson first began her nursing here, the Hospice program was not licensed and Medicare certified. Through her determination and perseverance, the necessary forms were submitted and policies and procedures put in place for the program to gain the necessary approval and certification.
Recently, Knudson’s efforts helped to open a thrift store in Truckee in July of last year to provide the much-needed funding for the program. Due to the shop’s success, a new store will open in Kings Beach on November 2.
Knudson’s efforts with the assistance of the Hospice team have helped to improve and expand care to those vulnerable patients and their families facing end of life.
“For me, this award is really for the entire hospice team because I don’t see myself as a single entity in producing this incredible program,” she said. “It’s been such a team effort and I am only one piece of the puzzle.”
The Woman of Distinction reception honoring Eileen Knudson will be held on October 22, at 6:30p.m. at the Glenshire Clubhouse.