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Patient reconnects with nurse who cared for her 40 years ago

Posted on Dec. 23, 2015 ( comments)
Nurse reunion_Anita and Mauri posed

Anita McNeely, left, cared for Mauri Price, right, 40 years ago at Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. Price, a labor and delivery nurse at Willamette Valley Medical Center in Oregon, says McNeely inspired her to pursue her dreams and become a nurse.

When she was 15, Mauri Price had major back surgery at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital.

The surgery, to correct scoliosis, involved a 21-day stay at the hospital — plus nine months in a body cast.

It was scary, but Price remembers one nurse in particular who made her feel at ease during the ordeal.

“She would talk me through everything she was doing,” Price says. “Her personality made the whole situation so much better. She took away my fear.”

That nurse was Anita McNeely, and her kindness inspired Price to pursue a career in nursing.

“I told my mom, ‘I want to be a nurse just like Anita,’” she recalls.

But life took Price in another direction. She pursued a journalism degree after being told she wasn’t very good at math.

Price assumed nursing was no longer an option.

“It’s never too late”

In 2004, Price found herself at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital once again. This time it was her daughter who needed surgery.

Recalling her stay 30 years prior, Price asked a nurse about McNeely, and was delighted to discover she still worked at Mary Bridge.

The two reconnected, and Price lamented to McNeely that she never became a nurse like she had wanted.

“Anita said, ‘You need to do it. It’s never too late,’” Price recalls.

Taking McNeely’s words to heart, she began nursing school a few years later.

Two-year search

Price graduated with her RN in 2013, then began working in labor and delivery at Willamette Valley Medical Center in McMinnville, Oregon, where she lives with her family. This year she earned her BSN.

Having achieved her childhood dream, Price wanted to share her happy news with McNeely — but didn’t have any contact information. She hit dead ends trying to find her online.

Two years later she tried again, reaching out through the Mary Bridge Facebook page.

“I just want the chance to meet with Anita once again, to thank her, hug her and let her know that I did it, I accomplished a huge life goal that she helped to spark!” she wrote.

McNeely had retired in 2007 after a 38-year career at the hospital. A Mary Bridge supervisor knew she still lived in the area, so she helped connect the two women.

Price and McNeely spoke first by phone, then arranged to meet in person during the holidays.

Reconnecting for the second time

On a rainy December day, Price showed up at McNeely’s apartment in Tacoma, a huge smile on her face. The two immediately embraced.

“I’m so glad you didn’t (give up),” McNeely tells Price. “You never know what effect you have on someone.”

“Thank you for your encouragement,” Price says. “You told me it’s never too late.”

“You’re so welcome,” McNeely responds.

anita and mauri

Anita shows a family photo to Mauri.

Price brought a Christmas gift for McNeely: a porcelain figurine for McNeely’s collection and a “Nurse Nancy” book from the Little Golden Books series.

On the inside of the book, she wrote McNeely a thank-you note:

“You cared for me and touched my heart with encouragement and a desire to be a nurse just like you,” Price’s note reads. “I became an RN in 2013 and for two years I’ve searched for you to tell you thank you for touching me in a way I shall never forget.”

mauri's gift to anita

Mauri's gift to Anita: A "Nurse Nancy" book with a thank-you note written inside.

Posted in: Tacoma

About The Author

Roxanne Cooke

Roxanne Cooke tells stories in words, photos and video.

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