Tributes pour in for longtime labor and delivery nurse




Donna McGaughey, who treasured her family, her co-workers and her beloved sheep, died April 13. Friends remember a woman of strength, compassion and kindness over her 38-year career.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer,

As the minister read the 23rd Psalm, those who knew and loved Donna McGaughey couldn’t help but glance at the photos on display at the funeral home.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Nearby were photos of McGaughey with her own flock – her family, of course, but also the sheep and lambs that gave her so much comfort and joy over several decades.

Babies were a big part of her life. She helped usher in countless newborns over her 38-year career as a labor and delivery nurse at IU Health Methodist Hospital and Riley Hospital for Children.

McGaughey, who had two sons, Matthew and Michael, and three grandchildren she adored, as well as many nieces and nephews, passed away April 13 at her Greenfield home. She had just celebrated her 61st birthday.

Last week, she was remembered as a kind and faithful nurse who enjoyed building relationships with her patients.

Rita Carithers, a nurse for 30-plus years, worked weekend nights with McGaughey for 24 of those years. She remembers her friend and colleague as a hard worker, encouraging and a good listener.

“I think a lot of patients looked up to Donna as kind of like a mother figure. She gave them comfort,” Carithers said.

McGaughey, who had recently undergone back surgery, kept a stiff upper lip when it came to her own pain, whether from body aches, surgeries or being kicked by one of her sheep.

“She never complained. She worked in her barn a lot, and she would come to work with all these bruises because she would get kicked,” Carithers recalled.

Her passion for sheep began when her boys were in 4-H, but it grew over the years, and she was a regular on the fair circuit and sheep shows.

“She was dedicated to her boys and those sheep,” agreed fellow nurse Sandy Humphrey, who worked with McGaughey for 28 years.

She recalled hearing stories of McGaughey taking little lambs into her home at night if they needed to be warm.

Nurse Sara Vawter, who worked with McGaughey for nearly 25 years, heard those same stories.

“When it was lamb season, she almost always had at least one baby in her kitchen she was bottle feeding. So, she would go home from work and be a nurse, too,” Vawter said.

Just like she calmed her sheep, she was calming to her patients, Humphrey and Vawter agreed.

“She had a very calm, quiet, comforting spirit about her,” Vawter said.

“She was just a kind person,” Humphrey said. “I never heard her raise her voice. She was compassionate, efficient, and she was very good at picking up different tasks on the unit.”

Kelly Marvel, manager of clinical operations for Riley’s labor and delivery unit, said McGaughey sat at the top of the seniority list, and her experience will be missed.

“To say she was loyal to our team, patients and organization is an understatement,” Marvel said in a message to team members last week.

“She exemplified strength, hard work and passion for what she was doing. The number of babies she had a hand in delivering and mothers she supported is probably in the thousands.”

McGaughey was easy to talk to and “a joy to work with,” Marvel said. “She loved her two boys and found joy in the farm they put a lot of work into.”

That was McGaughey, friends said. Whatever she did, she did 100 percent.

In fact, every vacation she took had something to do with family or sheep, they said.

“She never took a beach vacation. She was always going to a sheep show or a fair somewhere,” Vawter said.

Down-to-earth, hard-working and a true friend. That was McGaughey.

Carithers and McGaughey would park near each other before every weekend night shift and walk in together, talking about their week. After work, they would walk back out to their cars together.

“And then I’d call her if I’d start falling asleep,” Carithers said, “and we’d talk until I got home. And now she’s not here. I can’t call her. I miss her.”

A Nurses Honor Guard, featuring two nurses in starched white uniforms and caps, paid tribute to McGaughey and her many years of service during the funeral.

“It was beautiful,” Humphrey said. “They read the Florence Nightingale pledge and had a table set up with Donna’s picture and stethoscope.”

This poem, written by Duane Jaeger and presented at nurses’ funerals by request, was also shared:

She Was There

When a calming, quiet presence was all that was needed, she was there.
In the excitement and miracle of birth or in the mystery and loss of life, she was there.
When a silent glance could uplift a patient, family member or friend, she was there.
At those times when the unexplainable needed to be explained, she was there.
When the situation demanded a swift foot and sharp mind, she was there.
When a gentle touch, a firm push, or an encouraging word was needed, she was there.
In choosing the best one from a family’s “Thank You” box of chocolates, she was there.
To witness humanity — its beauty, in good times and bad, without judgment, she was there.
To embrace the woes of the world, willingly, and offer hope, she was there.
And now that it is time to be at the Greater One’s side, she is there.