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Birthing center nurse retires after 17 years

Blankenship will join husband and horse in Sisters
by: Shanda Tice Carol Blankenship, Manager of the Family Birth Center at Legacy Mt. Hood Medical Center, stands in the center's nursery and talks about how much the center has grown since it opened. Blankenship will retire in December.

For seven years, Carol Blankenship has overseen every birth at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center's Birth Center - including this week's 15,000th delivery.

But as new lives are being welcomed into the world, Blankenship, 67, is preparing for a new life of her own outside of labor and delivery.

She is retiring after 17 years in the center - seven of them as the center's manager - on Dec. 15. Her greener pastures include a 5-acre property in Sisters, where her horse, Pepper, already grazes.

Son, Dan Blankenship, and daughter, Wendy Grimmett, live in Bend, so Blakenship will be able to spend more time with her four Central Oregon grandchildren, ranging in age from 5 to 16.

Two stepchildren, Rosco Pershall and Heather McMackin, live in Portland, along with two more grandchildren - one is 4 and the other is in his 20s. Another grown grandchild lives in Texas.

Blankenship's husband, Leland Pershall, holds down the fort in Sisters. He's retired from his career as a teacher for the Portland Public School District, and has moved into what Blankenship calls their 'Doctor Seuss House' in Sisters. It's colorful, funky and sits on a hilltop.

Until she joins him there as a retiree, she visits on weekends. During the workweek she stays in Gresham with a friend who is a doctor in the birth center.

'I don't know that I'll even like it,' Blankenship said of her upcoming retirement. 'I've worked since I was 12, and I can't imagine not needing to get up and do something. I don't know what the rest of my life will look like.'

But one thing seems certain: She plans to volunteer for ranches that rescue horses.

Blankenship has lived in Gresham since 1974 and used to work as a labor and delivery nurse for Legacy Emanuel in Portland. So when Legacy built the birth center at Mount Hood Medical Center in 1995, Blankenship jumped at the chance to become the center's in-charge nurse.

'I always liked the community, and I knew there was a community feeling at this hospital,' she said.

The first morning that the birth center was open, it welcomed three babies into the world.

'There were just seven birthing rooms when I began,' Blankenship said. Now the center boasts 17 suites, plus an operating room for cesarean sections and gynecological surgeries.

As for staff, it's gone from 17 people to 70, including nurses, medical technicians, three midwives and seven doctors.

Blankenship has noticed changes in the industry. The 1990s saw an increase in homebirths and an interest in drug-free hospital deliveries. In response, the birth center has tried to spread the message that it can help if there are complications.

'Hopefully, we can give them what they need,' she sad.

The birth center's midwives also are being trained to do water births, she added.

Blankenship has loved working in labor and delivery, and enjoyed her years managing the birth center. It recently was ranked in the top 2 percent of the nation's family birth centers, according to a random survey conducted by Healthstream.

'A birthing experience is the one experience in your life that you don't forget,' she said. 'What more private, personal experience can you share with a family.'.