I’m sure you will receive many nominations for hospice nurses because they make such a great difference in the lives of the terminally ill and their families. I want to add Mary Oliphant to that list. Mary is an RN at Morton Hospital in Taunton. My husband of 56 years was in hospice care on Mary’s unit. He passed away Aug. 18 and Mary was with him in his final hours. Her soft Southern accent was a calming, caring, reassuring voice in those difficult days. My husband always responded to Mary’s care with a smile and one of his feeble jokes, which never failed to get a response from her. He was in pain, but being a tough, old cop, he never complained, yet Mary was able to read him like a book. She would recommend comfort care measures and med changes that always seemed to work. She kept my children and me informed in every aspect of my husband’s care and explained the changes we were seeing. Those could have been frightening to my family had Mary not taken time to support us in every way during this difficult time. In addition to my husband’s care, Mary assured we had meals and a place to rest and sleep.
I am a retired RN and a good judge of nursing care. I was impressed with the physical care my husband received and with the emotional care I and my family received. I felt that with Mary, nursing isn’t just a job, rather it’s a calling. My family and I will never forget Mary’s last actions. His final care completed, Mary opened the window of his room to “let his spirit go home.’’ That still brings tears and brought us a great sense of peace.
—Nominated by Amelia Cabral
Marilyn (Scully) Potoczak (my mother) has been my personal nurse my whole life. Having three boys in five years began her on-the-job training. We boys would get busted up on a regular basis. “Fight nice,’’ she would advise when neighborhood scrapes would arise. My first memory of her nursing ability came when my brother ran full speed into a cast iron clothesline pole. She cradled his head and applied constant ice and had him at the ER faster than any ambulance or police could’ve gotten him there. Marilyn graduated nursing school in 1969 and soon thereafter began her career at Morton Hospital as well as having her fourth child one year later. She worked as the “game nurse’’ for high school hockey at Family Recreation Rink. When someone got hurt, the players would slide her across the ice to aid the injured skater—this while wearing a white nurse’s outfit, white cap with two blue stripes, white nylons, and polished nurse’s shoes. She sat in the penalty box or on press row in frigid conditions. Pucks would whiz by at times, but she was too quick for them. There was no crying wolf under Marilyn’s roof. “Take your complaints to the complaint department,’’ she would tell us children. We didn’t know what or where this department was, but we listened.
Marilyn nursed her children through numerous broken bones and stitches. She nursed her husband through three hip replacement surgeries and a recent knee replacement. When family or friends are in the hospital, Marilyn is by their side, always advocating for their care and well-being. She has stood by her friends through all stages of sickness, old age, and dementia. At times she has comforted friends until their death. Through the years she has always been cutting edge and proactive in healthcare. When the new computer system came on board, Marilyn was the first to volunteer for training. She has spent nearly all of her career as an emergency room nurse, in which communication and clinical skills are critical and can mean the difference between life and death. She is the Florence Nightingale of Taunton. Now, after 45 years of dedicating her life to others, Marilyn Potoczak is retiring. The nursing continues, however. She visits elderly relatives in the nursing home, takes them to the activity room and concerts, and helps them to smile. Recently her husband, Fred, had knee replacement surgery. She converted one floor to living space for Fred while he was in the hospital. Surgery was Thursday and she brought him home Monday. His rehab and recovery are going fantastically.
—Nominated by Michael J. Potoczak