By Loretta Leone and John Langone
June 28, 1964
Quickly and efficiently the orderlies wheel the operating table down the dimly-lighted hall and through the door into the hot glare of Emergency Room I.
The patient lying on his back is a big man. He is oblivious to the excited preparations around him, for he is unconscious and near death. Staring, an indication of severe brain damage. He is bleeding profusely from tongue cuts.
This is Cooley Dickinson Hospital, about midnight on June 19, and the man fighting for his life is Edward Moss, aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Shortly before, in the foggy skies over nearby Southampton, a light plane carrying the senator, Moss, U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh (D, Ind.), and Mrs. Bayh, slashed into the tops of some trees, then crashed into an apple orchard.
The pilot was killed instantly to the mass of twisted metal. Kennedy, Moss, and Mr. and Mrs. Bayh all were injured, Moss the most critically.
Newsmen rushed to the scene- but one story remained untold in the thousands of words they filed about the accident involving the youngest brother of the late President Kennedy. That was the gripping saga of the fight to save the life of Edward Moss.
The story is a testimonial to the stuff of which Edward Moss was made- and to the tenacity of the surgeons and nurses who attended [to] him. This is the drama during the early hours of June 20, even as Moss's friend, Ted Kennedy fought for his own life in a nearby room.
Four doctors- garbed in green gowns, their lips tight behind the face masks, their fingers tense in their rubber casings- are waiting as the table bearing Moss is trundled in. A cordon of nurses and technicians forms quickly around the table.
The anxious doctors are David Jackson, a general and vascular surgeon, in charge of the emergency section this night; George Snook, an orthopedic surgeon; David Jemison, a surgeon; and Paul G. Lemaitre, an anesthesiologist.
These men assisted by at least 10 other men and women and some most sophisticated equipment known to medical science, would labor heroically for six long hours over Edward Moss, now lying in severe shock on the draped table.
The doctors appraise their patient's critical condition at a glance, and a nurse is sent quickly to telephone a Springfield neurosurgeon, Dr. Arthur Pava.
One fact heartens the medical team: Moss's heart and pulse beat are good. There is a chance then. The blood pressure, however, is low.
Moss's blood type is checked quickly, and a laboratory technician hurries into the room with three pints of the life-giving fluid. Before this, needles have been passed in the veins of both of Moss's arms and O-Negative blood, a universal type which can be used in emergencies, has been sent coursing through his body.
A tube also has been inserted through Moss's mouth and into his lungs. It is necessary to clear airways. X-ray equipment is rolled over Moss's broken body as the clock on the wall edges 12:15 a.m. The only sounds are an occasional muffled order from a doctor, the whirring and clicking of the X-ray equipment, the tinkling of glass, the squeaking of rubber-soled shoes.
Inhalation therapists wheel in their shiny machinery. Their job is to assist the patient to breathe- and to keep him breathing. Moss's chest heaves rhythmically as the equipment does its work. As the new blood continues to flow into the patient's veins, Drs. Snook and Jennison, their quickly, reduce, close and splinter the fractures Moss suffered. They already have stemmed the flow of blood from Moss's right arm- fractured in several places.
It is 12:30 a.m., and Moss's heart and pulse beat are good. Blood pressure, however, is almost gone.
It is 1 a.m. The door opens and Dr. Pava strides in. In moments, he had scrubbed for the ahead of him, had gloved and garbed himself, checked the patients name, age, the diagnosis, the anesthesia to be used. Working deftly, he opens the patient's head and begins a delicate operation in an effort to remove pressure on the brain. Dr. Pava probes and stitches for some 25 minutes, repairing the damage caused by the accident.
He is finished, but the rest of the team is not. Dr. Jackson performs a tracheotomy, a procedure in which an incision is made into the windpipe and a tube is inserted to ease breathing.
It is 2 a.m. Dr. Snook leaves to assist Dr. Thomas F. Corriden, who has been attending Senator Kennedy from the time he was brought to the hospital. The doctors continue their work. Inhalation therapy is kept up; the cuts in Moss's tongue are sutured.
The hands of the clock creep around 4 a.m., and Moss is wheeled out of the emergency room to the Intensive Care Unit on the next floor. It is the same area in which his friend, Ted Kennedy, is being treated.
Drs. Jackson and Pava advise a tearful Mrs. Moss of her husband's grave condition. They speak to Atty. Gen. Robert Kennedy, who has been concerned about him. Moss is still unconscious, his breathing is labored. But his blood pressure is gone. He lies motionless under an "ice blanket," a refrigerated device designed to lessen the strain on his body capacities.
But Edward Moss will never regain consciousness. The strain has been too great. Death comes slowly, but at 6:15 a.m. breathing stops. The battle is over. Wearied and red-eyed, the doctors and nurses leave the hospital, heartsick. They had, however, given Edward Moss the sum total of their knowledge and skill. Save for life, no man could ask for more.
To return to the Nursing Scholarship page, click here.
Cooley Dickinson Hospital • 30 Locust St. (Route 9), Northampton, Mass. • (413) 582-2000