An Interview with the President’s Nurses
The following from The Buffalo Express must be of interest
to all our subscribers.
The nurses who were on duty in the
Emergency Hospital on the Exposition grounds when President McKinley
was carried in are just beginning to realize that they performed
an active part in an event that is of international importance and
one that will be a matter of history.
Miss Walters, the superintendent of
the hospital, who was graduated from the Buffalo General Hospital
Training School in the class of 1890, was at her post, and Miss
Morris and Miss Barnes were the nurses on duty when the distinguished
patient was brought in. The other nurses, Miss Simmons, Miss Dorchester,
Miss Baron and Miss Shannon, arrived soon after and assisted at
Miss Walters has had several years’
experience in surgical nursing. She was five years in the General
Memorial Hospital in New York, two and a half years of that period
being the directress of nurses.
Miss Simmons graduated last April
from the training school of the Roosevelt Hospital in New York.
Miss Dorchester is a graduate of the
Buffalo General Hospital Training School. Miss Baron received her
training in the Long Island College Hospital Training School and
Miss Shannon is a graduate of the Cincinnati Hospital Training School
“They worked well, every one of them,”
said Miss Walter, in discussing the eventful afternoon. “I got all
the things needed for the operation, for none of the nurses are
so familiar with the places where the needed articles are kept as
I, since the nurses change every month. Miss Simmons and Miss Barnes
were the nurses who came in direct contact with the patient during
the operation. They handled the instruments and dressings, etc.,
and they were the ones who prepared the President for the operation,
Miss Simmons standing at the head of the table, fanning him.
“Miss Simmons and Miss Barnes were
the nurses who went from here to the Milburn home and took care
of the President during the first night.”
In the spotless little operating-room
off of the main hall on the first floor of the hospital, Miss Morris
and Miss Barnes told the story of the service to President McKinley.
“They brought him right here from
the ambulance,” said Miss Morris, placing her hand on the operating
table, “and did not even lift him to remove the stretcher during
the operation. I stood here and Miss Simmons stood over there,”
indicating the opposite side of the table, “and Dr. Wasdin gave
the anesthetic there,” pointing to the white-enameled stool at the
head of the operating table.
“He was the most admirable patient
I ever saw,” said Miss Barnes, as she joined the group.
“When we were taking care of him that
first night, sick as he was, there was not the slightest service
performed for him that he did not recognize in some way. If he could
not speak he would just give a little ’umph-humph, just to let us
know that he noticed what we were doing for him. 
“I had no idea it was the President
who was to be operated upon, when Miss Walters told me to get a
hypodermic of morphia and strychnia. I looked at the face of the
man on the table and said to myself: ‘That looks like the President,’
but it was some little time before I was quite sure about it.
“When I went to give the hypodermic
he looked at it in a rather distrustful sort of way and asked me
what it was. When I told him what it was he said ‘All right,’ very
quietly, but pleasantly.”
“We counted his pulse every five minutes
all night, and, of course, that kept us at his side almost continuously.
“It was so pathetic,” said Miss Morris,
“when he was on the table before the anesthetic was given. He seemed
to feel so badly that anyone should shoot him because of a personal
hatred. That seemed to be the thought that pained him most. He lay
there, so white and still, never uttering a complaint, and seemed
to be trying to comprehend what prompted his assailant to the deed.
“Once he said gently: ‘He didn’t know,
poor fellow, what he was doing. He couldn’t have known.’”
“We had a rather exciting time going
down to the Milburn house,” said Miss Barnes. “The automobile broke
down and we were delayed. I don’t know what time it was when we
got there. Some one said it was about 7.30 o’clock, but I lost all
track of the time. What surprised me when we arrived was the utter
stillness of the house. There wasn’t a person in sight who wasn’t
needed and there was not a sound any place. Owing to the guard stationed
about the house there was not a sound from the outside, save the
chirping of the crickets. It was a hard night for us, for we had
been up all day previously and we had a great deal to do. We had
no orderlies to help us.”