Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Mom's Haley Family Memories, part 2: She was a nurse

You were a practicing nurse from the mid 50’s all the way through your retirement in the 1980s so it was a major part of your life. I’m sure it defined you; I know I defined you, partly, by that side of you; so I’d like to devote this next section to the story of your nursing career. You've already talked a bit about it, like the scholarship, the years you trained, but I would like to get into details. Nurses always have interesting stories. I remember you coming home from work many times with some tales to tell, sometimes funny, sometimes hair-raising.

I am pretty sure I knew I'd try for nursing school in the beginning of the 12th grade.  I investigated to see what classes I needed and found I had everything except Chemistry.  I had gotten pretty good marks in all my other classes so I signed up for Chemistry and Biology in my senior year. I had already taken all the other college requirement classes. I knew I would need typing so I took that class during my lunch hour. All in all it was a very busy senior year. Saint Mary's High School had a very high accreditation so I didn't have to take any entrance exams into college.  Saint Mary's Hospital Nursing School was affiliated with Central Michigan University, so that worked out well.

I applied for the Scholarship and everything looked pretty good but then near the end of the school year I found that they had given the scholarship to my classmate, Jim Bray, because he had decided he would go into the Seminary. I was very disappointed but then applied for a loan and was accepted for that through The School of Nursing.   Halfway through my freshman year of nursing I was informed that I would get the scholarship after all because Jim had decided the priesthood wasn't for him after all.  So I was given 2/3 of the original amount of money as he 
St. Mary's School before demolition in 2008
had already paid 1/3 of it to the seminary.   So after I graduated from nursing school, I had to pay back that loan which wasn't that hard to do because I had a job in the “OR” (operating room) before graduation.

It was truly like going to College.  We had professors from CMU come to our nursing school for the classes and then halfway through our first year we went on the floor where we staffed the hospital, still in a learning mode.   There were lots of college grad nurses on the staff and they were our teachers in the hospital. We worked really hard on the different floors the next two years with affiliations at the TB (tuberculosis) Hospital in Detroit and the Psychiatric Hospital in Dearborn.  So all in all it was a pretty well rounded complete education.

Tell the story about the leg in the “flower box.” I love that one.

OR (surgery) was what I really liked after graduation. The story about the leg amputation is true—just a little bit of humor on the job. I was walking past the X-ray department on my way to the room where they would pick up the leg (It would be buried after the doctor examined it again) and one of the girls from X-ray jokingly asked if the flowers were for her (the box was long like a big bouquet of flowers would be packed in). I guess I just couldn't resist and went along with the spoof.

You were the first in the family to graduate college. How did they feel about that?

Yes the family was really proud as I was the first in the family to get a college degree.   My grandparents came to the graduation as did my God parents.   We celebrated with dinner at the house afterward. Gene and I were engaged then and had pretty much set the date for the wedding. It was supposed to be in May (of 1956) as that was the Month of Mary (The Blessed Mother). Then he got orders for Japan and we were all tore up about what to do.  So we needed to move up our wedding date and I picked February 11 as that is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.  I worked in the OR until I was able to join him in Japan the following May.  (I will send you this much and finish the rest tomorrow).

Saint Joseph's Hospital in Bangor Maine
Early 60s
The new hospital being built to replace
 the one Mom worked in on the right
Okay back to my nursing Jobs after I graduated.  I worked in the OR at Saint Mary’s until I left for Japan. Then I did not work until a little after Gail was born in 1963. We talked of starting to save money to eventually buy a home when Dad retired, so he suggested that I get back into nursing. I went to work at St. Joseph's. It was a small Catholic hospital in Bangor that was actually a converted mansion run by the Felician Nuns. Nursing had advanced quite a lot in the intervening 7 years from 1956 so it was a little bit of a challenge for me to get back into the swing of hospital nursing again.  But that small hospital was a good place to do that.  I think I worked there for about a year or so until Dad went back into Security Service work (high level Air Force intelligence) and that meant transferring back to Security Service type bases.  After he had completed his schooling at bases in Mississippi and Florida we went to Turkey for the first time for two years at Karamürsel Air Base and then back to Texas. In 1970 we headed back again to Turkey. I worked for a few months back at the hospital doing medical floor duty where my career began at Saint Mary’s while we were waiting to join him in Turkey.  Then, when Dad retired in 1971 I started working at Dr. Koenig's office in Saginaw for the next 18 years, retiring for good in 1989.   So that is my nursing story.

I definitely remember that you worked at hospitals in Texas (San Antonio) because there were times when you would come home just dead tired and cranky. In fact, THE only time I've ever seen you "lose it" was I believe in San Antonio one afternoon when I was bugging you that I was hungry. You stunned me when you just went off and began to slam food out of the cupboard onto the table in front of me. I remember feeling so embarrassed for myself and bad for you because I knew that you didn't mean to be so mean. I also remember you having a few incredible tales about some of your patients, like the guy that came in with maggots on his wound, stuff like that. I really didn't know that you had worked in so many different hospitals.

Sorry I was kind of in a hurry to complete that nursing jobs note. I thought I had mentioned working in San Antonio early in my notes. That was a hard job as they put me in charge many nights and I was uncomfortable taking charge. I was sooo tired doing that. It was at the Methodist Hospital on the outskirts of San Antonio. A much belated apology for being such a crabby Mom. I can barely remember that. Sorry.

Ha! No apologies necessary. I only brought it up because in retrospect THAT one incident is about the worst I ever remember you getting with us or with me anyway. I think also that at the time Dad was gone during that long TDY to Naples Italy, so you were stressed out from that as well I suspect. Of course with us just being kids we weren't very sensitive about how all that might affect you.
Did you work at the base hospital in Karamürsel as well? Seems like we did a bit of the latchkey kid stuff back then but I can't recall for sure.

No.  I never worked when we were overseas.   I just talked to a friend that I go out to Breakfast with after 8 o'clock Mass on Sundays and after she married and started her family, she didn't work much at all.   Sure have to give credit to all working moms, not an easy thing to do.    Another anecdote was walking into one of the patient’s room and seeing a guy who went to Saint  Mary's High and graduated a year ahead of me—a really small world.  When Mary Kay was born in Japan, the nurse who helped with the delivery was a Saint Mary's Hospital grad who was a classmate of a friend in Birch Run—small world!

One of the things I remember about much of your work related comments at the time was your fondness and kindness to your older patients. Has that changed now that you are one of them yourself? Somehow I doubt it. Chuckle… 

Actually I have always received great care when in the hospital or going for tests.  I guess in the end you receive the pretty much the same as you give.

Okay, sounds like you believe in karma Mom! What you sewed as a sympathetic caring nurse all those years is what you now reap as an aged patient. 

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