She’s semi-retired from a distinguished career in academia, passionate about animal rescue, loves sports and for 11 years has been the only woman in a fantasy football league where she readily holds her own. She’s also no slouch when it comes to poker.
But Liahna Armstrong, who earned her doctorate in English at UCLA and went on to a career that includes 22 years at Central Washington University, doesn’t play games when it comes to healthcare. She wants quality care in a caring environment.
After two decades on the board of commissioners of Kittitas Valley Healthcare, Armstrong is no stranger to the role KVH plays in her community.
When an attempt to play peacemaker between her dog and a neighbor’s cat left her with scratches, a deep cat bite and a dangerous infection, Armstrong experienced firsthand just how important that role can be.
Flash back to May 19, 2017. “My dog had the cat’s head in its mouth. The cat was terrified,” recalls Armstrong who rushed to intervene, saving the cat but not without suffering scratches and a cat bite above her left ankle in the process.
Early the next morning, she woke screaming in pain, her ankle totally swollen. Her husband Jim carried her to the car and drove her to the KVH Emergency Department where she was treated and released.
But Armstrong’s ankle remained swollen and painful. On May 24, Armstrong went back to the Emergency Department where Dr. Frank Cruz immediately had her admitted to the hospital. “I was there ten days,” she says. “They finally found an antibiotic I could tolerate and sent me home thinking I was getting better. But I wasn’t.”
Jim Repsher, a physician assistant at KVH Orthopedics, ordered an MRI. “After he got the results he told me, ‘You have a huge infected mass that’s going to require surgery,'” Armstrong says.
The next day, KVH Orthopedics surgeon Dr. Gary Bos removed the infected tissue. Armstrong says she was still in recovery when Bos approached her husband after the surgery. “I think I just saved her leg,” Bos reportedly said.
Those words aren’t lost on Armstrong. She praises Cruz’s fast action in admitting her to the hospital and the KVH Orthopedics providers, especially Repsher and Bos, for saving her leg.
Armstrong sported a lime green soccer guard to protect the wound area for a time and received IV antibiotics as an outpatient for several weeks. By mid-August of last year she was “pretty much back to normal” and enjoying hikes near the cabin she and her husband own at Chinook Pass.
Two decades after she first took office at KVH, she says her own experience affirms what she believes about the quality of care at KVH in general and KVH Orthopedics in particular.
“I was the sandwich generation,” she says of her decision to get involved in KVH. “I had a young child and aging parents. I became very cognizant of healthcare. I saw it from both ends.
“Doing the job of commissioner well involves a huge amount of knowledge,” she says, flashing a smile. “I’m still learning.”
But Armstrong says the time and effort have been worth it. “I’m proud of KVH’s commitment to the well-being of patients and employees,” she says. “I see it all the time.”
It’s what the community she fell in love with deserves, she says.
“Ellensburg is a wonderful place to live. Most people are very warm. I love being surrounded and embraced by good people in a good community.”