Remembering Doris

I submitted this essay to the Jersey City Medial Center School of Nursing Alumni Association Newsletter for the Fall publication. Limit: 500 words.

Remembering Doris Dolan

(December 31, 1926 – January 10, 2021)

Class of 1947

I met Doris back in 1965 when we both worked at Pollack Hospital in Jersey City. We became friends immediately. It was easy to like Doris: she was warm, gracious, non-judgmental, caring and a great nurse. 

Doris worked at the New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry’s Cardiac Cath lab at Pollack and moved with the College when they set up shop at Newark Hospital. She stayed with the Department of Cardiology until her retirement. 

Although I hadn’t seen Doris over the years, we exchanged Christmas cards. 

In 1994, my husband, Ernie, and I reunited with Doris and Bud at a wedding. The next few years, we, Doris and Bud and another couple, Mary Ann and Bill Owens, vacationed together. (Mary Ann worked with Doris at Pollack, too). “Bud and I always wonder why you include us old timers in your travels,” Doris would ask. We always had the same answer: “we enjoy your company.” 

The last time I spoke to Doris was before the Pandemic. She and Bud lived in a CCRC. She had had a couple of falls and suffered a subdural hematoma. Surgery released the pressure. She recovered well but had some short-term memory loss. 

Soon after that phone call, I was invited to speak at the JCMC Nursing Alumni Association at the Spring Luncheon in April 2020. I would talk about gerontological nursing: I was one of the first GNPs in the 1980s and wrote a book about my experiences: “Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic.” 

I planned to ask Doris to join me. 

What a great reunion it would be! 

But it never happened. 

The Spring conference was cancelled due to the pandemic. 

When I next called Doris, a caregiver answered the phone and told me that Doris couldn’t talk to me. Bud couldn’t articulate how Doris was doing. I called a few times after that—always told by the caregiver that Doris was either eating or napping. 

I wanted to thank Doris for sharing her “expert” cardiac knowledge from back in the 60s—the time frame of the nursing stories I had been writing for publication. She had mailed me reprints of studies and news clippings that filled the gaps in my memory. My essays were richer because of her input. 

I wanted to reminisce again about our talk at the Jug, a Greek restaurant not far from Pollack Hospital. I was 23 years old and afraid of marriage. I couldn’t decide to accept Ernie’s proposal. Doris was happily married to a loving, compatible husband. Thankfully, I listened to her. I think she felt delight for the longevity of my marriage. 

This past March, on a hunch, I looked up Doris’ name on Legacy.com. She had died on January 10th. The obituary was brief with one comment written by Doris’ only relative, a nephew. 

I hastily added mine:

So sorry to hear of Doris’ passing. She and I met back in the 60s when we worked together as nurses at Pollack Hospital in Jersey City. We also traveled with Doris and Bud and kept in touch over the years after we moved out of state.
She was the most generous, caring and kind person I ever knew. 
I will miss her.

Doris & Bud Dolan October 2010
(Bud died November 9, 2020)

GET THE FACTS RIGHT

English: Looking west from Staten Island Ferry...
English: Looking west from Staten Island Ferry at the former Jersey City Medical Center, now Beacon, Jersey City on a hazy afternoon during 5BBT. See also File:JCMC fr hblr Liberty Park jeh.jpg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My first job as a nurse was at the Jersey City Medical Center. I had just graduated from nursing school and had taken the NJ State Board of Nursing exam. Since I hadn’t heard the results as yet (snail mail in 1962) I signed my name with a GN meaning  “graduate nurse” rather than RN.

When the mailman delivered results, Gloria, my ol’ nursing school roommate, would be home to open her notification. She called my house and got my dad to open my letter. We had both passed! We could call ourselves registered nurses and put a black band on our white winged caps.

Gloria showed up on the fifteenth floor of the Jersey City Medical Center to tell me in person. We both screeched in joy. What did the patients and staff think? I don’t remember. And I don’t remember how many beds the JCMC had in the early ‘60s. And why would I need to know? Well, because it figures in the book I’m writing.

Judith Barrington, Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, cautions that “(I)t can be very embarrassing to get some very public fact wrong: the date Kennedy was shot; who played in the final at Wimbledon that year——. If these matters of public record figure in your story and you get them wrong, you will get dozens of letters telling you how sloppy your work is.” Well I would love dozens of letters or maybe in today’s communication world, dozens of emails but what I don’t want is so much negative criticism. Or to be accused of being a sloppy writer.

I recently bought a book, Jersey City Medical Center, which came out in 2004 and chronicles the conception, birth and life of the JCMC. For me, it brought back memories since I not only worked there but also lived three blocks away. After school, my best friend, Carol, and I used to roll down the grassy knoll outside the hospital. When we grew older and braver, maybe we were ten or eleven years old, we would sneak into the building, wandering up the staircases and peaking into the various patient floors watching the nurses go about their duties.

It was a magnificent hospital with elaborate decorations in the then popular Art Deco style. There were ten major high-rise buildings and I believe over 1,000 beds. But I may be wrong. So thanks to Google searches I was able to email the author, Leonard Vernon, who so graciously said he “would get back to me.”

I have to get my facts right.