By Cat Valles, Vitals contributor
When some people dream of retirement, they think of warm, sandy beaches, golfing, or gardening. For Cyndy “Red” Forbes, after 14 years as a nurse in the Emergency Department at Sutter Lakeside Hospital, the community where she worked and still lives naturally became part of her post-work second act as a volunteer.
“After I left full-time work, I missed my team and found I was still passionate about the hospital’s services,” Forbes said.
Those services include the hospital’s stroke center, Level IV trauma center, and Sutter Lakeside’s SART or Sexual Assault Response Team. Each is vital in this rural area.
“If we didn’t have these services locally people would get sicker while they tried to reach them elsewhere,” she said. “Some people can’t travel for care, due to financial, physical or mental hardship, which makes Sutter Lakeside Hospital’s role even more important.”
Forbes’ respect for the role of hospitals began when she was a paramedic with the fire department; before she became a nurse. That’s also when she got her nickname ‘Red.’ “I was a redhead so that’s how other paramedics knew me. But I kept the nickname even after I joined Sutter because there were already two staff named Cyndy, and we didn’t need three people trying to respond every time our first name was called.”
One person who still calls on Red regularly is Morgen Jarus, facilities manager for plant operations, and Sutter Lakeside’s mass casualty incident planning committee lead. “Red is an absolute wealth of knowledge, and even though she retired, we’re fortunate that she still dedicates a lot of her time volunteering on our planning committee,” Jarus says. “Her insight has been invaluable in helping us prepare for our emergency drills.”
Herself a transplant from the Bay Area, Forbes says disaster planning in Lake County is very different than in other counties closer to San Francisco. “There is no second tier. If you’re somewhere urban you’re going to have multiple tiers of caregivers. Here you’ve got to be a little more creative in how you blend your resources to form an emergency response team.”
Forbes has seen her share of disasters as a member of the medical reserve corps. She deployed with the Red Cross in Louisiana after hurricane Katrina and made medical missions to other countries while employed at Sutter Lakeside. When COVID-19 vaccines were approved, Forbes was among the first to staff the County’s mass vaccination site.
“During my career at Sutter Lakeside, I was the trauma coordinator and pediatric nurse coordinator. I did the paramedics’ education and supported pre-hospital care. I led our SART to provide care for local victims. The skills and opportunity Sutter Lakeside gave me prepared me to give back.”
These days, giving back is a full-time job for Forbes who is also active with Make-A-Wish in Lake County and a volunteer with the local theater company. “When I go, I want to know I’ve given and shared everything I can.”
For more information about volunteering at Sutter Health, visit https://www.sutterhealth.org/volunteering.