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Longtime nurse says goodbye to Southern Regional

By Justin Reedy

Of the thousands of babies Katie Jolley has taken care of over the last three decades, one sticks out in her memory.

Jolley, 63, was working in the nursery at Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale several years ago when former President Jimmy Carter's granddaughter was born there.

Jolley was taking care of the newborn girl when the famous Georgian came by the hospital to see the newest member of his family, like any good grandparent would. But having the former leader of the free world looking over her shoulder was a little unnerving for the veteran neonatal care nurse.

"That was a thrill," Jolley said. "He came by and just looked at his grandbaby n just like any other grandpa. I was so nervous, I couldn't remember some of the things I've done for years."

The president's granddaughter is only one of many memories Jolley took home with her when she retired last month from Southern Regional after 31 years as a nurse there.

The Stockbridge resident was a pediatrics nurse for several years before coming to work in the nursery at Southern Regional in 1972 n one year after the south side hospital opened. In that time, Jolley has cared for thousands of babies from the Southern Crescent and around Atlanta. Sometimes that means taking care of multiple generations of area residents.

"I had a young man here having a baby who said he was born at the hospital," Jolley said. "He said he was 28 years old, and I said, ?Yes, I probably took care of you.'"

Getting to see the grown-up version of their patients feels good, Jolley said, considering she has worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit during much of her time at the hospital. Jolley and longtime colleague Gladys Huckaby, a fellow nurse at SRMC, were reunited with one of their patients recently.

"We had a girl come by here last week who was 27 years old, and Katie and I took care of her when she was here," Huckaby said. "To see them come back is really exciting."

That means even more to Jolley when the baby starts out in a rough medical situation, like one child she remembers as just "Tommy."

"He was the sickest baby I've probably ever seen," Jolley remembers. "The baby not only made it, but he's doing remarkably well. That baby taught me a lesson n that it's not up to us to decide if a baby's going to make it or not."

She won't be seeing many situations like that now, though, since Jolley's retired n and she's going to have trouble filling the free time she now has every evening.

"I've always worked 3 to 11 at night," Jolley said with a chuckle. "I asked my husband, ?Does this mean I have to cook dinner?'"