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.

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Silly Good Writing

St. Joseph Academy Green bay WI picture

When I think of writing, stories always filled my pen. 

By 5th grade, my teacher Mrs. Brunmeier told me my stories were too avant garde for class distribution.  In 8th grade, I wrote the definitive, imaginative story of our class in a final report format.  In high school, I became the editor of the paper and won a first-place award in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association’s contest for writing, an expose of the National Honor Society.  And the list goes on.

But the stories I remember best were the ones I wrote with my friend Donna. 

As high school students at all-girls St. Joseph’s Academy (now Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay, www.notredameacademy.com), we yearned for life experiences yet to come.  We dreamed of prom dates and life successes far into the future. We wondered about the diminishing quantity of nuns who taught us and what would happen to their order, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, as more lay teachers entered the fray.  We imagined life in big cities and created imaginary all-knowing and all-powerful alter-egos while suffering through the realities of study hall.

For all those things that didn’t yet exist, we’d pen hand-written stories instead of dissecting frogs in biology class to make these lofty dreams come true.  Of course, we’d write each other as main characters and every wish, however small, would come true.  Oh, there would be conflict but ultimately we’d emerge the victors. 

 When Donna had a crush on J, I created a lengthy narrative for her full-bodied hair flowing in the wind, her wily charms on fire, and her witticisms dazzling a high school party crowd.  J could only hope but to fall prey to her charms.  Twenty pages later, Donna would have her man. 

A week later she’d hold the pen, my success held in limbo by her imagination.  Would I crush an opponent or merely lob an ace every serve in a tennis game?  It mattered not.  We would persevere and win.  We’d howl in delight, knowing we’d always be the heroines of our own stories.

Donna moved to New York.  I moved to Chicago.  When I’d least expect it, a hand-written note would appear in my mail, continuing my high school story line.  No explanation needed.  It spurred me to continue her tale, jetting her from country to country, adventure to adventure. 

When I found an old letter buried in a tangle of papers the other day, I quickly picked up my pen ready to resume the quest.  Donna died of colon cancer several years back.   Silly good writing had put her in a multi-million dollar home, lavished her with furs and jewels, and made her insanely happy.  She would have been pleased.