In May of 1972, Ann hosted her little sister, Arlene’s, baby shower. Ann was so excited about becoming a first time auntie, she could hardly stand the anticipation. She and her sister were very close, just two years apart in age, and had been best friends their entire lives. What was difficult, as was told to her and Walter just days before, the words, “you will never be able to get pregnant.” Ann was devastated, inconsolable, truth be told, but here she was hosting her sister’s shower and doing her best to keep her chin up and a smile on her face. It wasn’t that she was jealous; it was the pain of knowing she could never carry a child in her womb. Life would bring her blessings, “sure” she thought, just not a baby. Ann would be the best aunt she could possibly be to this little one due in June. Many friends and family attended the shower, all enjoying the time spent together. Now they would count the days until their new bundle of joy came into the world.
It was a beautiful summer day and Arlene walked around her block, just days away from giving birth to her first child. She planned to visit her sister in the afternoon, excited to talk about the new baby names she had recently discovered. Arlene was doing dishes when she felt the stabbing pains. She ran to the telephone to call her husband, panicking, not really knowing what to do. This was her first baby, and at 18, she could not handle the pain and the fears that were taking over. Arlene fell to the ground, unable to complete the call. Hours later, Jack arrived home from his job at the local grocery store. At 23, with no formal education, he had worked his way up to manager, doing his best to earn a good living for his growing family. He found Arlene, unconscious, on the kitchen floor. Blood and water surrounded her body. He picked her lifeless body off the floor and ran to the truck parked in the street; there was no time to call an ambulance. He did not want to lose his wife; they had only been married for six months. It was up to him to get her and the baby to the hospital.
When he arrived, screeching to a halt outside the Albany Central emergency room entrance, he picked up Arlene and ran into the ER. The room was packed that night and finding a nurse or doctor looked to be impossible. Laying her gently down on the gray, dingy waiting room couch, he ran to the front desk, yelling, “please get a doctor, my wife is not responding and I don’t know what to do!” The receptionist handed him a stack of papers, asked him to fill in what he could, and that she would get to him as soon as possible. Enraged, he ran back to his wife and checked on her. He needed help from Arlene’s sister and brother-in-law, but he had no way of calling them. He ran back to the desk and asked to use the phone, but the overworked and underpaid girl was not in a helpful mood. Jack sobbed for someone, anyone to help, but the people were lost in their own thoughts and problems there in the waiting room. No one was willing to assist him. An elderly man finally stood up and offered to call Jack’s family.
Ann picked up the telephone, not knowing who would be calling this late, and the stranger on the other end startled her. As he relayed the information to her, she motioned Walter to get the car keys. She quickly hung up, relaying the news to Walter. Off they went to the hospital to find out the fate of her sister and the baby. When they arrived, Walter took over for Jack at the receptionist desk and Ann held Arlene’s hand as she continued to lay, unmoving, on the couch. Jack did his best to fill out the necessary paperwork and threw it at the girl behind the desk. Minutes later, three people in green scrubs arrived with a gurney. They lifted Arlene onto it gently, then rushed her off to a room in the confines of the hospital. The others could only wait, and pray.
Five hours later, Dr. Gary Woods walked into the emergency waiting room. There he found Jack, Walter, and Ann, on their knees in prayer. Jack jumped up, terrified at what the doctor had to say, and more terrified at the look on his face. It told him everything he needed to know. Arlene was dead. The doctor confirmed the news. She had lost too much blood and her body could not handle the hours she had spent on that kitchen floor. Jack screamed, throwing his hands into the air, yelling and cursing at God, asking Him why. This was not how it was supposed to be. He had a wife and a new baby. He had it all planned out.
Ann ran over and grabbed Jack as he fell to the ground. As Ann whispered words of love and encouragement to him, Walter, the only one who had the sense to ask, “what about the baby?” Dr. Woods told him that the baby boy was alive and doing very well. They had stabilized him and he was currently in the NICU. It was suggested that they go visit him as soon as they felt up to it. They could also say their goodbyes to Arlene. Walter reached for Ann, asking to speak with her. She pushed herself up from the floor, reaching for Walter’s hand, as he told her the news that would change their lives forever.