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Car accident death of Perham home care employee traumatic

Tristen Lee-Dolan

The tragic death of "one of their own" prompted an emotional, heartfelt commentary at the Dec. 2 Perham Memorial Hospital and Home board meeting.

"It is truly amazing how we all pull together and support one another during times of tragedy," said Perham Memorial Home Care Director Dan Peterson, who made his comments as he fought back tears. "This is a great place to be."

Tristen Lee, a home care employee since 2007, was killed in a tragic car accident Nov. 9-one of the first icy, slippery mornings of the season.

Almost spontaneously, co workers and community members began helping. Soon, $1,000 was raised to help the surviving family of the young mother.

"It wasn't even a formal campaign-it just happened," said Peterson, in an interview. "We had sent out an email to inform staff what happened, and the next thing we know, people from all different departments started sending money."

The outpouring of support came not only monetarily, and not only locally.

High school student Jared Dornbush was on his way to school that fateful morning, when he encountered the accident scene, said Peterson. He was one of the first there, and he took care of the two children-under age five-as emergency crews went to work. Tristen was driving her two youngest to day care when the collision occurred, north of Perham near the Little Pine Lake boat landing on County 8.

"The young gentleman showed a very high maturity level," said Peterson. Another early arrival was one of Tristen's colleagues at the hospital, a nurse, noted Peterson, adding that it was especially difficult for her, as she helped at the scene.

"It is a testament to the quality of life in a small community in rural Minnesota. People come out of nowhere to support and help out," said Peterson. "When there is a tragedy like this, you really see the good side of people and humanity."

The charity also came from far beyond Minnesota. An email regarding Tristen's death was sent to other home health care agencies around the nation.

"Home health care is a business, but it is also like a big family. We received 60 cards and responses from other agencies around the nation," said Peterson. A Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, agency has more or less adopted the Lee family.

"(The Pittsburg) agency sent flowers to the funeral home, and they are putting together a care package for the family," said Peterson.

Internally, the PMHH employee assistance program was initiated after the death. Staff from "The Village" in Fargo came on site and helped staff through the grieving process, noted Peterson.