Since 1974 hospice has established itself as a unique and invaluable part of the medical community. Where did it all begin? It began with one nurse and a vision to turn her desire to help into something great and lasting.
On a recent reconstruction trip, standing beside an open rectangle in the wooden frame of a Biloxi, Mississippi home, I listened as a seventy-year old homeowner pointed through the soon-to-be window and said, "You see that tree? We clung to it for hours. It saved our lives when the water got so high we had to swim off the roof." Now a full two years after the hurricane hit shore, I couldn't even begin to imagine the harrowing Katrina scene that this courageous grandmother described.
A big heart and willing arms. Susie Walking Bear Yellowtail was born on the Crow reservation in Montana on January 27, 1903. With a big heart and hands willing to work hard for the good of others, Susie's path would soon lead her on a journey toward greatness. Her life is an example of the power of one as a force for good. Susie Yellowtail graduated from the Boston City Hospital School of Nursing in 1923 to become the first American Indian registered nurse in the United States. Blazing trails unfamiliar to others became a way of life for Susie as she returned to her beloved Crow community to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Hospital.
Let's imagine, for the sake of argument, that you've been blessed with a privileged Memphis birth in 1881 to a well-to-do Kentucky family, the granddaughter of a US Vice President and the daughter of a Russian ambassador. As a girl, you are educated at the best Switzerland and Connecticut boarding schools. At age 23, you meet the man of your dreams and promptly marry him. He dies of appendicitis three years later. You grieve, but your loss ignites a desire to care for others. You move to New York for nursing school. You meet someone else. You marry again, start teaching in Arkansas, and have a baby boy and then a girl. Both babies die. It's 1919.
American Revolution (1775-1783): Women serve on the battlefield as nurses, water bearers, cooks, laundresses and saboteurs.
War of 1812: Mary Marshall and Mary Allen nurse aboard Commodore Stephen Decatur's ship United States.
Liz Di Bernardo