Monday, May 6, 2013

Mrs Frank McConn--Stork's Best Friend

Lawrence County News July 31, 1952 Stork's Best Friend Mrs. Frank McConn
“Rarely has an individual contributed more to Lawrence County then Mrs. Lucia McConn, who last Saturday moved from Lawrenceville to Belleville after many years of service here. Having assisted in delivering, or delivered by herself, more than 3700 babies in this area, she is well-known for her work and well- loved for her kind, cheerful personality.

Lawrence County was very fortunate when Mrs. McConn came to Lawrenceville with her parents Mr. and Mrs. Tyler Andrews, in 1915 from Titusville, Pennsylvania which was the original oil boom town, in time to attend high school. She had dreams of someday being trained and qualified to be a doctor, but her father wouldn't hear of it. In the 1920s she settled for a nursing career, entered St. Luke's Hospital in Chicago, and graduated in June, 1926.

While in Chicago, she assisted in her first delivery of a baby, the 12th child of a Greek family. Unfortunately, the infant died. The father was quite irate over the loss of the baby, but the mother was optimistically philosophical. When she left the hospital, the mother shook hands with the nurses and said “goodbye girls, I'll see you all about this time next year.” That occasion marked the start of a heartwarming, unselfish career of public service by the woman who a few years later married Frank McConn.

Since that date she has not only helped deliver babies in such unusual places as a hayloft, coal shed, garbage dump, chicken coop, school buses converted into dwellings, and deluxe trailers, but took time out to give birth to three children of her own, Tom, Tyler, and Marcia.

Mrs. McConn recalls that not many years ago, a man stood under a local doctor’s window of 5 AM and said the doctor was needed. Another baby was due. The doctor, therefore, summoned Mrs. McConn, and they drove to the eastern part of the County, directed by the expectant father. The  family in question had been burned out of its home in Indiana and switched its residence to the Illinois side of the river only to be flooded out. When the water moved in, the family moved out – into the hayloft of a barn. Despite all the obstacles, the nurse and doctor performed their task and delivered the mother’s 17th child.

Then there was the coal shed case, in which Mrs. McConn and the doctor were both forced to enter the shed by backing in because of the cramped quarters. This child's name became Nettie in honor of her father's having recently completed a fishing net.

These visitations were just two of the many hundreds of the special delivery trips Mrs. McConn made as a public health nurse. In May, 1942, the Public Health Department established a home delivery service to relieve the congestion of area hospitals, which resulted in frequent traveling to all parts of Lawrence and Wabash counties as well as fringes of Richland and Crawford. The physician in most cases was Dr. R. F. Snyder of St. Francisville although she has assisted all local doctors. Working with this program, Mrs. McConn averaged about 320 deliveries a year.

It wasn't always easy to answer an urgent call from an expectant mother. Mrs. McConn's car once turned over in a ditch in the country during a storm. Another time, a loaded meat truck hit her automobile head on in an equally serious storm, but despite four broken ribs, Mrs. McConn hitchhiked to her destination to deliver the baby on schedule.

The work also resulted in occasional unreasonable demands. A woman who was just about due  phoned that she had left an apartment in Lawrenceville that had been practically completely prepared for delivery, disregarded every bit of common sense, and was visiting her parents in Crawford County when she learned that the time had arrived. It was during winter, and the roads were a glare of ice. Yet, the woman's parents could not understand why Mrs. McConn wasn't willing to risk her life by driving there at once. A doctor tried it and wound up in a ditch. Fortunately, the nurse points out, those instances were relatively few and far between.

She has also had to cope with superstitions. When she advised one grandmother to have a bowl of olive oil ready for the newborn baby, she was handed the bowl of lard. The granny said that if pure, bland lard was used, the baby would be beautiful. Olive oil? Why that would make the baby ugly. One mother refused to comb her hair or permit the floor to be dusted under her bed for fear that it would be a bad omen.

Despite it all, Mrs. McConn has been on hand for the delivery of more than 3700 babies, many being of the second generation. Now that she is moved to 1117 East. A. Street, Belleville Mrs. McConn wants to wait a couple months before returning to active nursing.   She would like to nurse at Scott Air Force Base where her husband is employed.”