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Kathleen Mayer Bovello

Emergency Surgery Four Days After Opening Saved My Life

Holy Cross Hospital | 50th Anniversary Stories | Kathleen Mayer Bovello

When Holy Cross Hospital opened on January 10, 1963, I was 8 years old and my family lived in Kensington. At the time, some of my sisters—there were seven in total—were sick with the flu. So when I came down with similar symptoms, my parents assumed that was what I had, too.

But they dutifully checked with my doctor who worried that I might have appendicitis. He insisted that my parents take me to the nearest ER—now at the new hospital—immediately for evaluation.

Well, his instincts were right and my appendix needed to come out. But this was about 10 p.m. on January 14— only four days after the hospital’s official opening—and, as it turns out, the OR wasn’t even scheduled to begin operations until the next day. So the young doctor on call wanted to defer surgery til the morning. But my doctor would have none of it, and the next thing we knew, John Haberlin, MD—Holy Cross Hospital’s first chief of surgery who was also chief of staff—was doing an emergency appendectomy.

Thank God he did. Apparently, my appendix had ruptured in the meantime. If they had waited until the next morning, I would have died.

I remember there were a lot of people in the OR. It seems everyone wanted to be part of the first operation!  Afterward, I spent two weeks in the hospital. In those days, no one under 16 was allowed to visit, so the nurses would take me to the window in my room so I could wave to my sisters who gathered outside to send me get-well wishes. 

Interestingly, I later attended Holy Cross Academy where one of my classmates was Carol Haberlin, daughter of the man who saved my life.

Over the years, I delivered my son at Holy Cross Hospital in 1983, and both he and I have been in the emergency room for various reasons over the years.  Holy Cross Hospital is our family hospital.

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