GARDEN VALLEY She laughs about it now, but an accident at a shooting range five years ago left Kathy Vaughan with a wound right between the eyes.
I ripped my face open, said Vaughan. I wasnt paying attention.
She had held the handgun too close to her face, and when it kicked back, the gun drove her glasses into her forehead.
Rather than drive 50 miles to Boise on a Sunday, she called Dr. Mike Koenig, who met her at his Garden Valley clinic an hour later.
Koenig gave her seven stitches, and she bears no visible trace of the wound today.
He was very kind about it, she said.
Koenig arrived in Garden Valley in 2002, heralded as the first physician to serve the area in more than a century. He has rendered aid at all hours, and on nights, weekends and holidays, and won many admirers.
Its not like your suburban family practice, said family nurse practitioner Jeremy Basse, who joined Koenigs clinic about a year and a half ago, after working in remote Alaska. Its all nature of care, from normal family medicine to urgent and emergent care.
NEVER OFF DUTY
During his first month in Garden Valley, Koenigs young son suffered an extreme bout of croup. In a panic, his wife told him to call 911.
I turned to her and said, I am 911, Koenig recalled.
Concerns that there might not be enough people in the area about 2,200 early on to support a family practice physician are a distant memory.
Koenig, who many call Dr. Mike, has cultivated a regional patient base of 4,500, built his own 6,000-square-foot clinic in Garden Valley and opened an office in Horseshoe Bend. He now has a small staff to support him including Basse, an office manager, and receptionists for each of the offices that lets him spend more time with his family.
The second floor of the clinic is an apartment for physician assistant students who work there. Koenig said he hopes to hire a physician assistant to focus on womens health care at some point.
CELEBRATING A DECADE
Koenigs contributions to the community were celebrated at a party Sunday organized by the Garden Valley Hospital District, which originally hired him.
Most people who live up here hate to go to Boise, said district board member Tom Hutchison.
In 2006, Koenig became independent, and about a year and a half ago moved his practice out of a community building into the new clinic he built.
Its wonderful to have someone dedicated to small-town family medicine, said Rich Wilson, a retired engineer who has lived in Garden Valley for seven years. Were blessed to have him.
Wilson, 66, recalled a Sunday night a couple years ago when he was sure he was having a heart attack. His wife called Koenig.
He put the EKG on me and said, You havent had a heart attack, but I dont like what Im seeing, Wilson said.
Koenig rode in the ambulance with Wilson to the hospital to administer advanced life support en route.
He was right at my head all the way to Boise, said Wilson. Doctors found an artery 85 percent blocked, and put a stent in the next day.
BANGED UP IN MOTORCYCLE CRASHES
Koenig, 42, is from from southwest Washington, and he loves living in the woods. There are few things he enjoys more than racing post-vintage, 1980s motorcycles. He has 17 of them in various stages of restoration, some in the basement of the clinic.
Koenig also has a reputation for crashing. Few people are surprised when hes banged up or has an arm in a sling.
Hes been over the handlebars a few times, said Basse.
Four years ago, he busted his kneecap hitting a tree at 30 mph. He had a guy who works at a local body shop stitch up his knee.
Its been a year and a half since I broke my last bone, Koenig said proudly.
Things like that keep life interesting. Its not boring. Its very unpredictable.
A LOGGER WHO WENT TO MEDICAL SCHOOL
Koenig grew up in a large Catholic family, the youngest of eight children. His dad was a forester and an electrical engineer.
His do-it-yourself family built their own houses as he was growing up, so he had construction skills he needed to build his own medical clinic. It took him three and a half years, but he estimates that he saved $1 million.
He considered being a radiologist the hours looked good but after a rotation in medical school as a family doctor in rural Montana, he was hooked.
Koenigs wife, Rosemary, grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore and came to Garden Valley sight unseen, with a toddler and new baby.
I promised him three years. I can do anything for three years, Rosemary Koenig said.
She didnt know what to expect of rural Idaho. I didnt know dirt roads existed, she joked.
Rosemary doesnt love long winters or mud season, but she now considers Garden Valley home.
This is where I want to raise my kids, she said. The Koenigs have a daughter, Kateri, 10, and a son, Joe, 13.
Rosemary Koenig helps out four days a week at the clinic, which is across the street from their home on the Banks to Lowman Highway. When the clinic is closed, people sometimes come to their house or call the Koenigs friends looking for the doc.
Sometimes people solicit Rosemarys help, but she draws a clear line.
I didnt go to medical school, she said. I faint at the sight of blood.
Emergencies that interrupt their lives seem to come in spurts. One occurred as Koenig was leaving for the first three-day weekend hed had in four years.
Rosemary drove behind the ambulance to Boise on that occasion. They missed their flight to Seattle and caught one the next day.
DAILY OPERATIONS,GETTING OUT OF DEBT
The Garden Valley clinic averages about 20 patients a day; Horseshoe Bend 15 to 18. About half are retirees and half are families, Koenig said.
About 20 percent of patients are uninsured, and another 15 percent are on Medicaid. Patients pay on a sliding scale, based on family size and income.
A significant number of out-of-towners who injure themselves and get medical care leave without paying, Koenig said.
They say, Oh, I dont have my wallet with me, he said.
State and federal programs aimed at getting doctors into rural areas will free Koenig from $120,000 in student loans within the next two years.
Though he goes back several times a year to prune the trees on his Christmas tree farm south of Bremerton, Wash., he has no plans to move his family to his home state.
Its way too crowded. You cant get away from people, he said. This is a great place.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413