Column: Nobody we’d rather have in the room

01/11/2014 8:00 AM |

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Times/Review babies Jackson Parpan (left) and Abigail White with moms Vera and Suzanne were both recently delivered into the world with help from Mattituck nurse and loyal Suffolk Times reader Douglas Massey.

When you’re an editor of a local newspaper, you expect to meet readers in all sorts of places; the grocery store, schools and libraries are the most common among them.

The hospital delivery room is not the sort of place you’d expect to make that connection — especially at a hospital more than a half-hour outside your coverage area.

But Stony Brook University Medical Center is exactly where I — and Times/Review editor Michael White three months before me — recently met Douglas Massey.

Yes, Mr. Massey, a nurse from Mattituck who happens to be a loyal Suffolk Times reader, coincidentally played a role in the delivery of the two most recent Times/Review babies.

In dealing with patients, Doug, a 52-year-old father of three, is quick to acknowledge that he’s a man in a field traditionally associated with females. It’s all part of a bedside routine he uses to put patients at ease during stressful times. It’s no secret that there’s usually anxiety in a hospital room and it helps if the professionals there treat the patient with compassion and know how to turn a tense moment into a positive experience.

Mr. Massey’s bedside manner was so natural, he gave both Mike and me the initial impression he’d been working as a nurse for decades. That’s not the case.

A laid-off construction project manager, he graduated from nursing school in May 2011, which is when The Suffolk Times first shared his story. While his journey sounds like it could have been a ’90s TV sitcom starring Tim Allen, Doug doesn’t exactly play it for laughs. He’s serious about his calling and it’s clear he cares deeply about helping others.

“If a person is caring, has the intellectual capacity to make it through nursing school and can apply that knowledge on the job, then that is what really matters,” he told the paper in 2011. “If you are empathetic and not afraid to show it, then nursing is the right profession for you.

“I love doing this,” he added. “I love helping people. There’s nothing better. Helping people get back to full function is as good as it can get. I’m a lucky guy to have fallen into it,” he said.

For Mike and me, having someone like him hold our wives’ hands during the most important day of our lives was a blessing.

What made the editor-reader connection even more unusual was that Mr. Massey does not typically work in the maternity ward. While his regular shifts are scheduled in an intensive care unit, he happened to be picking up overtime hours when he found himself in our delivery rooms.

One regret Mike and I both had after the deliveries was that shift changes prevented Doug from seeing our children enter the world. When my son was born at 11:35 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 22, Mr. Massey had left the room 45 minutes earlier for an overnight ICU shift. I felt disappointed when it was time for him to leave, and sad I hadn’t gotten the chance to properly thank him for all the help he — and all the other great nurses — gave us on the big day.

But reflecting on the delivery experience this past week, I imagined the great care Doug was able to give the ICU patients, who I’m sure needed him more that night than we did. They were lucky to have such a pro at their side.

Mr. Parpan is the executive editor of Times/Review Newsgroup. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or 631-354-8046.