The Press-Gazette Publishes its Maggie Follow-Up Story

 

St. Vincent Hospital Green Bay

“There was a great deal of interest in the story I published on Maggie,” Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter Dian Page told me after her initial column on my search for the nurse named Maggie, which was published last month.  “I’d like to do a follow-up story.  Could you pass along some information on what you found?”

It took me about a week to return calls and emails from the many people who responded.  It took an equal amount of time to process the thoughts and feelings it brought to me.  It was incredibly touching that so many people were interested in my story and my search.

Today Dian published her follow-up story, Pediatrics Nurse Remembered Fondly By Many.

Have you ever searched for someone from your past?  I’d like to hear about it.

In my Anne on Fire research, finding this much information on a “Maggie” — someone remembered but long-lost from contact — is unique.  Talking to friends, relatives, siblings, doctors and others associated with my burn experience, their memories have varied widely.   Just because the memories are vivid for me doesn’t mean they leave memorable impressions on others.  One person’s crisis is not necessarily another’s.  One person’s joy may be their own.  It’s remarkable to have the perfect shared experience as I found in my search for Maggie.

For example, when I called the doctor listed as my pediatrician, he was receptive to my call.  He had known my parents for many years and I had gone to high school with his son.  As much as he remembered our family, he had to scratch his head about me.  He certainly remember me but not the story of the burn even though it was 99% certain that he was there during the initial stages.  When I talked to my father-in-law (a retired surgeon) about his, he reminded me about the volume of work and the many sleepless night he spent doing surgery after surgery.  Of course, he remembered many of his patients and their specific stories but helped me understand how impossible it would be to remember every detail as a patient would.

All of this is what makes the Maggie story so remarkable.  From everyone I talked to and everything I learned, I know Maggie always remembered me.  As a nurse’s aid, I was told, Maggie would have had the time to spend with her little patients — unlike the duties calling the regular nurses and doctors.   And that is what people remembered about Maggie:  The time she gave to those she loved.

It’s something to know and remember about life.  The time we spend with others is the most lasting gift of all.

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“It’ll Run on Tuesday.”

Coffee as Fortification

One of the great ideas I received after writing about my search to find Maggie— the nurse who cared for me when I was in the hospital after burning my leg — was to contact the local newspaper and have them link to the blog posts.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought of that. instead I was working on the copy for a call-out in the personal ads.  But the more I thought about it, the smarter it seemed.  Armed with a cup of coffee for both caffeine and courage, I called a long-time columnist at the Green Bay Press-Gazette and spilled out the story of my search.

“Now, that’s kind of interesting,” reporter Dian Page said.  “Tell me about your ties to Green Bay.”  My ties of course are many, including having a brother and a sister who still work and live in the area.  “Well, send me an email summarizing what we talked about and I’ll see what I can do.”  Quickly, I pounded out the story summary on my keyboard, hit the send button and that was that.

Only if you have ever pitched the press, you can never be sure what happens next other than the fact that you usually wait.  Your story, your idea, your pitch if you will is no longer so much yours as someone else’s.  The media had just become the filter between me and my target audience — anyone who might have information about Maggie-the-Nurse or my story for that matter.

Days passed and I sort of forgot I had even done this.

When the phone rang yesterday with an unknown 414 exchange, I let it go to voice mail.  Probably another one of those “you’ve won a vacation!” scams or something.  But when I listened to the voice mail, it was Dian from the Green Bay Press-Gazette, calling to fact-check a few things about the story.  “It’ll run on Tuesday,” she said.  “Good luck.  I hope it helps and you find some information.”

It’ll run on Tuesday, January 31st.  I don’t know what exactly is going to ‘run’ — what piece or part of the story — but I do know there’s power in the press and that everyone and their brother reads the local paper.  Now this, is going to get interesting.

Her Name was Maggie and She was my Nurse

Her name was Maggie and I remember her being stout with short, tight curly black hair.  As far as I know, she was my nurse and protector while I was in St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay for 3 months with a burned leg.  The only photo I have of her is on the day of my discharge as she stood watch while I was being wheeled out of the hospital.  I remember her always being there with me, reading to me, patting my head gently, crying soft tears when I was in pain.  As with all thing from the era of the burned leg, I’m not sure if this is my real memory or a created memory, so I’ve made a couple efforts to seek her out.

When I was 18 — 15 years after my accident — I went back to St. Vincent Hospital to visit my friend John.  John was the quarterback of the high school football team senior year.  He took a bad hit and punctured a lung during a game.  We’d been friends since first grade.  After school one day, I walked over to the hospital to visit.  When the elevator opened on the pediatric ward and I walked up to the nurse’s station to double-check the room number, she ran out from behind the desk and gave me a massive bear hug.  I wasn’t sure who she was or why she held me so tightly.  “You’ve come back Annie, you’re back,” she said, shaking me so hard it almost hurt.  “It’s me, it’s Maggie.”    

How she could have recognized me 15 years later has always been a mystery to me, though I was sporting my St. Joseph’s Academy blue shirt and knee highs, so she could have seen my burns peeking out.  But I knew that wasn’t it.  When you spend every day with someone for three intense months, you never forget and she didn’t.

Trying to find her today is a lot more art than science.  I called the hospital and they can’t give out any information on current or former employees due to privacy/confidentiality laws.  I don’t even know her last name.  She may not be alive.  I thought about taking out an ad in the local Green Bay newspaper but am not sure that would bear fruit — what would I say exactly?

My best shot right now is my high school friend Peggy who offered to help.  Her mom worked at St. Vincent’s for many years, though her memory isn’t what it used to be.  Peg’s going to ask her mom if she remembers the nurse named Maggie.