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I surprised myself

Posted on September 1, 2023, by Mary Louise Denny SL

Alice Mattingly, left, is Mary Louise Denny’s chearleader, physical therapist and angel.
Photo by Donna Mattingly

I live alone. Circumstances got me. There I was, a broken left wrist (my dominant hand), a fractured right ankle and a new untrained dog. Friends had been driving me to appointments, bringing me meals, visiting when they could. Basically, I was a mess and began feeling like a drain on my generous friends.

Finally, one friend, with fear of explosive retaliation, said she thought I should go to the Motherhouse Infirmary to get the help I needed. I trust this friend, and in my gut I knew she was right. I reluctantly agreed.

Step one: Call the Infirmary to make sure there was room.

Step two: Call the Sisters of Loretto president to make sure the resources needed were avail- able and to get her opinion.

Step three: Make arrangements for the dog, the mail, the house.

The next steps happened quickly and without my having to do anything. Suitcases were packed, transportation assured. Calls were made. All of this happened within 24 hours, and I was off to Ketucky.

Some five hours later, I was greeted by a group of Loretto residents and friends, lifted out of the car and whisked into the Living Center (as the Infirmary is now called). And what had been a dreaded journey began.

I don’t have much recollection of the first several days. I remember being told I was a “two-person assist.” I couldn’t do anything without a lot of help. I was exhausted, in pain. I felt defeated and no longer in control.

The nursing staff, the intake person, the administrator — all were kind, professional and thorough. And then there was Alice. As I began to venture out of my room, others would say, “So have you seen Alice yet?” Then a knowing smile, a nod of the head … every person I saw said in some way, Alice will get you better, Alice can do it, do what Alice says and you will be fine. And so it is coming to pass.

Alice blew into my room, introduced herself, sat down and announced to me that she would be my “cheerleader.” “Now let’s get going,” and get going we did. As a physical therapist, Alice is the best. As a personality and a force to be reckoned with, Alice is a joy and a remarkable woman: gentle and firm, honest, with a generous heart and a quirky humor. Alice is a verb. What others had said is true, and I love her.

While many physical challenges remain, I feel my joie de vivre and good humor have returned. I love the casual yet professional staff; every employee from the kitchen to nursing to housekeeping and maintenance knows my name and knows something about me. I am becoming friends with Loretto people I only knew by name.

And then there is Alice. There will always be Alice. May we each have an Alice in our life. The dreaded journey has become a welcome home.


Mary Louise Denny SL

Mary Louise and Susan Carol McDonald SL had lived in St. Louis for the past 20 years. A nurse, Mary Louise has assisted many Loretto members with their health needs. She also traveled to Vietnam several times accompanying Susan in Susan's work with those orphaned in the Vietnam War. About Susan, Mary Louise had said, "I have learned a lot from Susan and continue to be amazed at her compassion and love."
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