Rite Aid employee giving back to those who saved her

Michelle Mortrud has raised over $300K for Children’s Hospital
By Brandon Gustafson | May 03, 2019
Photo by: Brandon Gustafson Michelle Mortrud has worked at the Mukilteo Rite Aid for 25 years. Each year, she earns donations for Children’s Hospital. He hospital saved her life twice as a child.

If you’ve ventured into the Mukilteo Rite Aid, you’ve likely encountered Michelle Mortrud.

She speaks slowly, has a bright smile, and is often seen working behind the cash register.

If you’ve visited the store in the last few weeks, Mortrud may have asked you for a donation to Children’s Hospital in Seattle.

It’s something she has done each year since she started working at the store 25 years ago in 1994, raising more than $300,000 for the hospital. This year, her goal is to raise $6,000, and she’s more than halfway there.

There’s good reason, too. That hospital saved her life twice.

Mortrud’s first trip to Children’s occurred early on. So early, she doesn’t remember anything from it.

“When I was 3 weeks old, I had spinal meningitis,” Mortrud said. “I was swallowing my tongue. I was rushed to Children’s, and it saved my life.”

The next big scare came when Mortrud was 14. She had been swimming, and thought she was sick with the flu.

“I had been swimming, so my mom took me to an ear, nose and throat doctor,” she said. “I wasn’t given a blood test, and was told it was likely just ‘swimmers ear.’ The next day I woke up and my body was purple. I was violently sick.”

Mortrud’s parents called an aid car, which rushed her to Stevens Hospital (now Swedish) in Edmonds.

“They did a blood test and I had ketoacidosis – high blood sugar,” Mortrud said. “I was rushed to Children’s and nine hours later I went into a diabetic coma.”

Mortrud said doctors weren’t optimistic about her chances, and told her parents that if she did make it out of the coma alive, she would either be paralyzed or brain dead.

“A priest came in and baptized me and gave me my last rites,” Mortrud said. “The next day, I came out of my coma.”

Mortrud had been in the coma for over a month, and was at Children’s for a total of five months, one week, and one day.

“I had to do physical therapy, occupational therapy, school,” she said. “When I came out of the coma I was 14, but I had the brain of a 2-year-old. I had to learn how to speak, walk, go to the bathroom, and read all over again.”

When she was released, she had to use a walker to help get around, but went back to school at Kamiak. This time, however, she was in special education courses. Prior to getting sick, Mortrud tutored special education students at Kamiak.

Despite the medical setback, she graduated with her initial class, but stayed for one more year afterwards.

“I did one extra year at Kamiak. I graduated in 1996, but stayed an extra year in 1997.”

The day she graduated, Mortrud earned her drivers license.

“I went to drivers ed and I had never driven before, but I passed with flying colors,” she said. “That night, I graduated.”

When she was 16, Mortrud started working at Rite Aid because the store owner at the time, Harold Griffith, regularly sponsored Special Olympic athletes. He liked her so much that he offered her a paid job.

“This is my first job,” Mortrud said, smiling.

And ever since she started, she has been raising money for the hospital that saved her.

“I wanted to help give back for all the help they’ve given me.”

Mortud is such a familiar face that those who recognize her from Rite Aid will often stop her to say “Hi.”

“I’ll be out shopping at Fred Meyer or something and people will say, ‘You work at the Rite Aid, don’t you?’” she said. “And if I’m with my dad, he’ll proudly say ‘and she’s been working there for 25 years!’”

Mortrud and her father are close, and both live with disabilities. The two lean on each other as Mortrud’s mother died in 2002 from cancer.

“My dad and I promised her we’d take care of each other,” she said.

Mortrud doesn’t let her disability keep her down. She does all tasks required of Rite Aid employees, and despite not walking like she used to, enjoys regular two-hour walks with her dog.

The time to help Mortrud reach her $6,000 goal is fast approaching. Currently, she’s raised over $3,700. Her deadline is Thursday, May 9.

“There’s been a lot of support from the community all these years because they see I can work,” she said. “I’m slower at some things, but I can still do it.”

Anyone interested in donating to Mortrud’s fundraiser can do so by visiting the Mukilteo Rite Aid at 11700 Mukilteo Speedway, Suite 500. The store’s phone number is (425) 514-0620.

 

 

 

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