Karen Burnett has quite a story to tell.
You may not recognize her name, but you’ve probably seen her one time or another, especially if you’ve spent any time in the Rainier Bar and Grill. Ever since the old, funky Rainier Tavern was flushed down the drain and resurrected as the suburban enclave we know today, Karen has been head bartender in the place. And, as you may recall, she did one hell of a job. Even when the place was extremely crowded – which isn’t at all unusual on a Saturday night – she had no problem mixing whatever kind of off-the-wall concoction people asked for. In many cases, she not only knew everyone seated at the bar, but also knew what each individual usually drank.
Then, on the evening of July 8, 2013, while in the trenches serving the troops, her head seemed to explode. She collapsed against the sink, picked herself up and, as best she could, stumbled into the restroom, before she became terribly sick. She was rushed to the local hospital, where they ran a CAT scan and immediately ambulanced her to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.
Alas, Karen was suffering from a massive brain tumor. One of the largest her doctors had ever seen.
Initially, she told everyone she hadn’t experienced any warning signs that might have indicated anything was wrong. But now, in retrospect, she remembers suffering from a lot of headaches during the last few years – at least, more headaches than usual. She’d also awake with an occasional “spacey” sensation, which she mistakenly attributed to a hangover. Several years ago, she lost some hearing in one ear.
Karen went into surgery Aug. 20 and, for the next several days, was given enough pain medication to tranquilize 14 elephants. Indeed, one of the drugs she received on a regular basis was eight times more powerful than morphine – yeah, you read that correctly. She couldn’t eat, swallow, write, read or do much of anything.
In all, she spent 80 days in St. Joseph and 20 days at Harborview in Seattle. She was allowed to go home a few times, but was always rushed back to the hospital with one darn thing or another; for example, fluid kept leaking from her brain stem. Infection was another serious problem. Before she was finally released on a more or less permanent basis, they’d cut her head open four times.
By then, she’d been in intensive care for more than 70 days. Can you imagine what kind of bill that would be? Neither can I.
Today, her recovery is nothing short of miraculous. There’s a little nerve damage on the right side of her face, but that’s hardly noticeable. She’s having some trouble with her right eye, but doctors seem to think they can correct this. Eventually, she might return to work.
Karen wishes to offer her heartfelt thanks to her coworkers and the host of Rainier customers who have helped her in so many ways. She’d like to extend her gratitude to the entire community for the money raised at various events staged on her behalf. And, if I might speak for all of us, we’re just happy to have her back.