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Doris: Serving others in challenging times.

Nurses are nothing short of extraordinary. They are inherently kind, compassionate and caring. They put others first, go the extra mile and are excellent communicators, even in challenging situations.

One of those people is American House Halls resident Doris Wooldridge. Doris was born in 1927 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She grew up on Pontoosuc Lake where she swam, sailed and went ice fishing with her two brothers, Charles and Paul. A natural athlete, Doris played high school softball and field hockey and won an award for “The Most Athletic Girl,” inspiring other young girls to play sports. 

Doris had always enjoyed caring for others. After graduating from high school, she attended a hospital nursing program in Massachusetts and earned her nursing degree in 1948. It was important to her to serve others: “The fact that you can use your knowledge and help many people who are ill makes it a very rewarding and important accomplishment.”

Like the nurses serving on the front lines during the COVID pandemic, Doris’ talents and passion were put to good use in another, very devastating and contagious epidemic, polio. 

Polio is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus. It was at one time, one of the most feared diseases in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during its peak, between 1950 and 1953, there were approximately 119,000 cases of paralytic polio and 6,600 deaths. With the development of the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas E. Salk in 1955, polio cases in the U.S. have been eliminated.

Recalling her experience caring for those with polio, Doris says, “It was a tough time and heartbreaking.  There were patients of all ages who got sick, including children. We were concerned about our patients, but we also had to be concerned about ourselves because it was highly contagious.” She recalls wearing white gowns, masks and gloves, and caring for people who were paralyzed and living in an iron lung.

The majority of Doris’ career was spent in hospital operating rooms. She travelled with her husband and worked in a number of different states, including New York, Massachusetts and Wyoming. Through her many challenges she remained motivated to care for others, saying “It’s about connecting with people. It feels great when you learn something new about the people you interact with.”

Having recently blown out the candles on her 95th birthday cake at American House Halls, Doris shares some wisdom as a veteran nurse, “Be very proud of your profession. As you go, you learn and grow as a person. There is something to learn from every experience.”

We all have a story. A story that taught us something, changed us and helped define who we are. Our seniors have amazing stories that hold a wealth of wisdom. At American House, your next chapter is waiting to be written. We’re here to help you write it. Your way. 

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