Tuesday, March 22, 2011

First Class Delivery

In 1964 Linda and I realized that we were going to have a roommate in 7 or 8 months. It was time to find an Obstetrician.

Not just any old obstetrician......would do for me. It had to be the best.

Jackie and John John Kennedy

So, being in the same town as the President, I figured that any Doctor the President and First Lady chose, would probably be good enough for me.

Throughout my life,“Ignorance” has often been my friend. Most people would have been “smart” enough to know that someone “off the street” like me wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance to have the physician that delivers the President’s children....deliver mine!

But that’s exactly what happened.

(Linda disputes this. She says it was because I was such an important media person at the time. But I think I just told her that back then to impress her.)

At any rate, Dr. John W. Walsh became Linda’s doctor. His brother, was Dr. William B. Walsh, who founded and led Project HOPE, a nonprofit program that provides medical training, health education and humanitarian assistance around the world.

Dr. Welby
Linda was crazy about Dr. Walsh. He was the kind of Doctor that most of us knew as kids.....a “Doctor Welby” bigger than life figure, who could almost make you well....just by walking into your room. They used to do that, too! Doctor visits back then meant that he would visit you!

(Jackie Kennedy requested that Dr Walsh meet her at Andrews Air Force Base to help her cope with her grief when she returned from Dallas on that fateful day.)

The night I brought Linda into Georgetown Hospital to deliver our first born, I was, to put it mildly, a basket case. But when Dr. Walsh met us in the waiting room I felt as if warm oil was being poured down my back.

Linda and John Myers Shephard
What a relief! I knew then that Linda and our baby were in good hands and I might even survive as well.

Two years later we’re in the same waiting room. Linda’s in Labor, but she’s very calm and serene.

I’m a basket case.

Georgetown Hospital Washington, DC
But this time, there’s no Dr. Walsh!

It just so happened that Ethel Kennedy was also having a baby that day. So, it looked like the young intern would be delivering our second child!

I’m certifiable by this time.

Instead of Dr. Welby, this young kid, barely out of medical school, is going to be delivering our baby? I wasn’t sure if an “intern” is even a real doctor or not, (he was) but I wasn’t at all happy about it. Besides, his name was Don Payne.

Doctor Payne!!

I was getting some bad vibes.

He came out into the waiting room and formally introduced himself to me and explained that Dr. Walsh was delivering another baby at the moment, but would probably be able to be here in time to deliver mine. He mentioned the latest timing of the labor pains......etc.....and the longer he talked, the more he didn’t seem like a kid anymore.

He came and gave me up-dates about every 20 minutes.

There was no feeling of that “warm oil” running down my back, but some of Dr. Walsh’s bedside manner must have rubbed off on him because his demeanor was starting to settle me down a bit.
My hair was no longer standing on end and I had ceased bouncing off the walls.

Dr. Walsh did arrive in time to deliver our second child, David, but by then it didn’t seem so important to me. Dr. Payne had sold me.

Linda and I both became very fond of Don. A couple of months later, he invited us to a party at his house in the posh Spring Valley neighborhood of Northwest Washington, where we met his beautiful wife and four little boys.

Hollywood couldn’t have contrived a scene depicting a more convincing picture of a young man who has “the world on a string!”

I would like so much for this story to have a happy ending.

But it doesn’t.

In the late 70’s Dr. Payne, by then one of the leading gynecologists in Washington, went through a messy divorce.

Jessica Savitch
And in 1981 he married the troubled NBC TV anchor person Jessica Savitch. A few months after their marriage, she suffered a miscarriage which her friends said Don blamed on her hectic schedule.

On August 2nd of 1981, he hanged himself in the basement of their home in Washington.

On October 23rd, 1983 Savitch had dinner with Martin Fischbein, VP of the New York Post. Driving home after the meal the station wagon in which  they were traveling veered off the road and went over the edge into the shallow water of the Delaware River, landing upside down in the mud which sealed the doors shut.

Mort Crim, who co-anchored a local Philadelphia TV newscast with Savitch in her pre-network days, is quoted as saying, "She attracted tragedy like a magnet."

Jessica Savitch was 36 years old.  -Ed

(Editor's note: The picture of Linda holding our first born, John Myers Shephard was taken in the bathroom of our apartment when he was about 4 months old. He's laughing like Hell because he just saw himself in the mirror for the first time. Click on picture to enlarge -Ed)