This letter is paid content. By Cheri Gunvalson RN, PHN, MS
Many of us in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District know House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson because of his work on behalf of farmers, and livestock and dairy producers. We farm, so we know firsthand the value to our local economy to have the most powerful farm-policy lawmaker be our representative in Congress.
I’ve been an R.N. for over 35 years and a lot of people don’t understand is that Rep. Peterson isn’t only a champion for our farmers and ranchers. Rep. Peterson is also Minnesota’s health care hero.
In 1997, our son Jacob, then six, was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a rare genetic disorder from which most boys don’t survive into their teens. It is the number one genetic killer of boys with the highest rate of spontaneous mutation. We had no family history and every family is at risk. Jacob will be 29 next week, he would likely be on a ventilator, or have died, if it were not for the work of Rep. Peterson. Once we told him Jacob’s story and there was no treatment or research Rep. Peterson did everything he could and authored the Muscular Dystrophy Care Act which was the only health bill passed in the 107 th congress - there is no doubt in my mind he saved Jacob’s life.
That bill created National Centers of Excellence for Muscular Dystrophy, to lead the research and development of other lifesaving drugs and treatments through the National Institute of Health. Now Jacob is in a clinical trial and I wonder how many other Jacobs has Peterson saved because of that? I do know there are over 100.000 grateful families benefitting from the bill!
But Peterson didn’t stop there.
Before leaving to take care of Jacob full time, I worked as a registered nurse at our local hospitals. I experienced firsthand the financial frailty of our rural hospitals, which for thousands of Minnesotans are our only local health care provider.
Many of our hospitals here in Minnesota were closing or getting ready to close when Rep. Peterson struck another bipartisan deal. This time, Rep. Peterson negotiated with the California Republican who led the House Ways and Means Committee in 2003, Rep. Bill Thomas. They agreed on a bill to pump $103 billion of funding into Critical Access Hospitals, which is how most of our hospitals are classified in rural Minnesota.
Rep. Peterson’s idea was simple: pay our rural hospitals what it costs to provide care. But the Democratic leadership didn’t like Peterson’s idea because it was part of a Republican health care bill. Nancy Pelosi chased Peterson all over the Capitol, but he stuck to his guns and did what was right for Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District.
That bill kept our hospitals open. We have now 77 Critical Access Hospitals in Minnesota, in communities like Bagley, Ada, Marshall, Long Prairie and elsewhere because Rep. Peterson was willing to cross the aisle, and work with his Republican colleagues on a bipartisan bill that was right for his constituents.
I’m writing this letter because I believe it is important that people know of the record that Rep. Peterson has accomplished, not just in farming, but in health care.
He is a powerful advocate for us here in the 7th Congressional District. If we vote him out of office, we will lose an independent, tough-minded and powerful lawmaker who puts the people of the 7th first -- before any president, before any party. Cheri Gunvalson, of Gonvick, Minn., is a Registered Nurse, and former Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of North Dakota College of Nursing.