February 26, 2013
By Audrey Fraizer
Elizabeth “Betty” Dunn’s tendency to make decisions based on another’s feelings complemented her husband William’s more logical approach to problem solving. She was the better of the two, “Bill” would insist, and her legacy represents the very best of both of them.
Bill and Betty met some 55 years ago at a social event. The two, both in their early twenties, developed a friendship, but it wasn’t until six months later that the relationship took a turn from the platonic. Bill was scheduled for knee surgery at the same hospital where Betty worked as the Sister in charge of the ward.
“We became closer,” he said. “I admired her. She truly believed in making life better for others.”
Betty died more than three years ago, on June 8, 2009, from complications related to lactose intolerance and congestive heart failure. She was 77 years old.
Bill, a retired automotive engineer and business manager, still tears up over the loss of his better half, which happens whenever he thinks and talks about her.
And that’s often.
Betty was a full-time caregiver. That was her life. She never based care on any preconceived notion of the person, but rather, Bill said, on the premise that everyone should receive the best care possible.
Betty entered nursing as a student at Clatterbridge Hospital and after qualifying as a state registrated nurse she started again as a student midwife at the same hospital. Part II of that training, the practical section, was conducted on the Isle of Wight where some of her patients were inmates at HMP Parkhurst.
Betty qualified as a state registered midwife and returned home to Wirral, but her next appointment put her back at Clatterbridge in charge of an operating theater. Betty’s move to St. Catherine’s Hospital as surgical ward sister represented the epitome of her career. She shined. Responsible for a “Nightingale ward” of 32 surgical beds, she worked 24/7 in split shifts, and during surgeon-scheduled operating days, she would stay well past her normal finishing time to coordinate her patients’ continued care.
“There were many times when I picked her up that we were too late to even get a take-away meal,” Bill said.
Betty was headstrong, Bill said, but that only lent itself to her impeccable reputation among the surgical and medical staff. Retired Surgeon and Physician R.B. Crosbie, who worked with Betty at St. Catherine’s (later at Arrowe Park Hospital), told Bill that she managed the most efficient and hygienic wards in the hospital.
“Seventeen years without any patient coming down with a post-operative infection is an incredible record,” Dr. Crosbie said and, with a wry smile added, “I like to think that the contagious bugs were afraid of her.”
Betty left “her ward” to become manager of the Outpatient Services Department of St. Catherine’s Hospital in preparation for the move to Arrowe Park Hospital. At Arrowe Park Hospital she was the nursing officer until her retirement after more than 45 years of nursing service.
Betty’s headstrong nature also meant a bee in her bonnet would never buzz its way out until acted upon. The resolve tied to her greatest fear produced a way Bill could give back to the community in memory of his wife of 51 years.
“She didn’t like it when people got the wrong impression about a medical procedure,” Bill said. “We were chatting about this and it really bothered her how TV portrayed the use of a heart defibrillator. She knew how they worked but the way it was showed she said would put the fear into people. They would never want to use one in case of an emergency, even if one was available.”
Before Betty’s death, the couple agreed to donate an automated external defibrillator (AED) to a charitable cause, and that’s where Beverley Logan, accreditation officer, International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED), comes in.
Bill, who is a member of the West Lancashire Chapter of the Masonic Brotherhood, and others from lodges in Lancashire and Cheshire, attended a CPR talk Logan was giving at the Bryn Masonic Hall in Wigan; Bill was immediately impressed and afterward approached Logan about his desire to keep his promise to Betty.
Logan was intrigued.
“My personal objective has been to increase the number of AEDs in the community and his quest was to continue with his wife’s lifelong commitment to helping others,” Logan said. “I agreed to help.”
Since that fateful meeting two years ago, Logan and Bill have teamed up to urge public support of critical care for out-of-hospital victims of cardiac arrest.
He has donated three AEDs to three separate Masonic Halls and arranges training from the North West Ambulance Service National Health Service (NHS) Trust, who is in constant and daily use of the Cardiac Science Defib. Certification is maintained on the NHS database. Prior to Bill’s announcing the donation, Logan preps the audience on the importance of bystander intervention and the 9-9-9 process.
“Once people understand how emergency services work and the guidance and support available when making the 9-9-9 call, they will have the confidence to do the right thing,” Logan said. “And that’s helping patients survive.”
Logan and Bill have become mutual admirers. She admires his devotion to Betty’s memory and the civic good of Free Masonry; he admires her dedication to pre-hospital care and AEDs.
“Beverley is a lovely person,” Bill said. “Nothing is too much for her when asked to help and she never rushes with her audience. She makes sure everyone understands and without that understanding the whole gifting would be pointless.”