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Fern: She's a friend for life

It is hard to believe I was only 23 years old and Fern was 46 when we met.

It all started when I announced to my coworkers at a hospital in Ventura, California, in October 1968 that I was moving to Eugene.

Verne, my head nurse, said, “You need to look for a job in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Sacred Heart Hospital and be sure to look up Fern Martinson. I met her at a coronary care education program in L.A. last year. She is a great gal, full of fun, and I am sure she is a crackerjack nurse and teacher.”

Of course, I followed Verne’s advice, and on my first day as an ICU staff nurse at Sacred Heart, I asked about Fern. Nobody seemed to know who I was talking about. But, finally someone said, “Oh, you must mean Marty; she’s one of our coronary care instructors.”

With that she picked up the phone and said, “We have a new nurse who knows a friend of yours and she wants to meet you.”

In a matter of minutes, the door to the ICU door flew open and a large woman in a crisp white lab coat over her dress with perfectly coiffed salt-and-pepper hair and owlish eyeglasses, swept into the ICU booming, “So where is this new nurse who wants to meet me?”

When I stepped forward and told her that I had worked with her friend Verene in Southern California, her face lit up with a huge smile, and she enveloped me in a warm hug saying in the same loud voice, “Anyone who is a friend of Verene’s is a friend of mine; welcome to Sacred Heart!”

Fern immediately took me under her wing, supporting my ICU orientation and ensuring that I was accepted into the Regional Coronary Care Education program offered by Sacred Heart, as soon as I was eligible.

Over time, Fern became my most valuable and memorable mentor during my long nursing career. She was interested in and supportive of my educational and professional achievements, but always reminded me, “I don’t have a lot of degrees, but I have a Ph.D. in life, which counts for a lot.“

Over the years, we have stayed in touch with periodic phone calls and visits to catch up, to laugh about the “old days,” and to share current news about former colleagues.

At 92, Fern is a bit unsteady on her feet and at times her short-term memory fails her, but she is still smart and full of fun with a boisterous laugh — a great gal and a wonderful friend!

Fern enjoys life and rarely complains, but admits, “To tell you the truth, Joy, this getting old business is not all it is cracked up to be.”

I love Fern and value all that she has been to me over the years. Who knew 46 years ago when we met we would become friends for life!

Joy Dobson Way, RN, MSN, lives in Ashland