As director of facilities at Pullman Regional Hospital, Patrick Wuestney knows both the wonders of technology and the business end of a broom. After 26 years on the job, he also quips that the hospital just might be the best venue for his aging body.
So why, then, did he volunteer to spend two weeks in Brazil digging holes in rock-hard ground, mixing cement by hand and lugging wheelbarrow loads of concrete to pour foundations?
“We traveled to Brazil to build a shop and a storage building,” Pat, 50, said of himself, his two young sons, Brady, 15, and Riley, 13, and 20 other members of the non-denominational Onecho Bible Church, located about 18 miles west of Pullman.
“For a little tiny church, we support a lot of mission work.”
Likewise, Pat said, Pullman Regional Hospital supports its employees when it comes to helping others in need.
“They encouraged me to go,” he said of the trip to Brazil, explaining that the adventure seemed, in many ways, like an extension of his work at the hospital. “Working for a hospital maybe has a more noble feel to it than working in other fields,” he suggested. “The mission of the hospital is helping people.”
So, in late June of 2013, Pat, his sons and the other congregation members boarded planes for flights from Spokane to Salt Lake City, to Atlanta, to Brasilia (the Capital of Brazil), and finally a bus ride to Estancia Victoria (Camp Victoria), a Christian vacation camp located near the tourist town of Tres Ranchos.
And then the work began.
“You get to a point where a shovel is useless,” Pat said of the foundation work. “So you'd use a big metal bar with a point on the end and pick and pick and pick and pick. And then you'd use a post hole digger.”
Some eight years earlier, Pat, his wife Karen, and their oldest of four sons, Cody, joined others on a similar mission to help build a meeting hall. On this trip, most of the crew worked on the beginnings of the shop and storage building. Others traveled into more remote regions to help install basic outdoor shower and bathroom facilities.
“Service work is important to help with people's physical needs,” Pat said of the sweat equity the crew offered. “But a more important purpose is trying to help fulfill people's spiritual needs. So this camp literally reaches hundreds and hundreds of people a year.”
The camp's link back to the Onecho Bible Church on the Palouse is through directors Dinho and Ginny Periera. Dinho is from Brazil, Ginny from Washington State, and the two met while doing missionary work. They founded and have been expanding Camp Victoria, with the help of volunteers, ever since.
“They'll have a meeting (at the camp) where they say the Christian message and talk about the good news of Christ's death on the cross for our sins,” Pat said. “And they don't beat around the bush, either. It's all in Portuguese, but it's not something watered down. It's the real Gospel.”
That dovetails perfectly, Pat said, with the Onecho Bible Church, where he and his family have been members of the congregation for 18 years. “Its roots were Mennonite and Methodist 100 years ago. I would call it evangelical.”
The church's Brazil mission team stayed at Camp Victoria for two weeks. They left having accomplished more than anticipated and thrilled with the opportunity to help others. People of all ages come to the camp, but the emphasis is on teens with activities ranging from paddling canoes and swimming to riding zip lines and bicycling.
“A lot of those kids don't have opportunities to have those kind of activities, so it's really a treat for them,” Pat said. “One of the biggest reasons I went this time was so my two youngest boys could go and experience a different culture and see something beyond Colfax.”
The Wuestneys live on a 36-acre farm west of Pullman. Brady and Riley attend school in Colfax, while Cody, 20, will be a junior at Washington State University and Tyler, 19, is completing the John Deere tech program in Walla Walla. Pat calls their home a “hobby farm” and says the commute to work at the hospital is well worth it.
Pat's hospital tenure extends back to the days when Pullman Regional was located on campus in a building that, as Pat explains it, was ailing more than most of the patients. “It had gotten to the point,” Pat said, “where it was held together with band-aides.”
In the new hospital, Pat's office is located on an upper floor at the end of a corridor with a window view of the heliport. He relishes both being tucked away and overseeing an experienced staff of about 25 people who work in maintenance, housekeeping, security and grounds.
“We took a huge step up in technology with our new building,” he said. Likewise, the juxtaposition of the new hospital to buildings in Brazil, where termites have been known to eat wood structures within a year, is eye-opening, Pat said.
“We're a very, very, very capable small hospital. Far more capable than probably the average critical access hospital.”
He credited the hospital's growth to its leadership.
“It's a wonderful, wonderful place to work. The leadership here I think is uncommon,” Pat said, “very forward thinking, and encouraging everyone to be forward thinking, outside the box...what can we do to make it better, and serve our patients better? We're constantly working to improve quality and patient satisfaction.”
“People come here when they're sick or injured to get help. And while I'm not directly involved in that, I'm involved in helping accomplish that mission,” he said of his role.
That kind of thinking, he said, was underscored by and seemed to meld with his mission to Brazil.