Gordon: When Where did you attend nursing school, what was your favorite course, and why was it your favorite?
I went to St. John’s Mercy Medical Center for nursing school in 1967 after working as a candystriper volunteer after school at Visitation Academy. During school, I worked nights as a nurse’s aide to pay for my dorm room. I usually worked in the Burn Unit.
I loved every course but was drawn to critical care because the nurses took care of the sickest or most injured patients.
I graduated in 1969 and started working at St. Mary’s hospital because they had a nurse 1 year nursing internship program then back to St. John’s to work in their intensive care unit.
Gordon: Please provide an overview of your current work as a legal consultant/
I became fascinated by law when I read Judge Bork’s book on Roe v. Wade and met with pro-life lawyers with the St. Louis Archdiocesan Pro-life Committee. They were very helpful and encouraging.
When the Baby Doe case came up in 1982, I was outraged that the justice system didn’t protect him and tried to find out why.
My doctor husband and I wanted to adopt Baby Doe and get the simple but life-saving surgery done but found out that the parents refused all offers because he had Down Syndrome. I finally realized that what I thought was an extreme statement that legalizing abortion would lead to legalizing infanticide and euthanasia was true!
Ironically, a few months after Baby Doe died, I had my daughter Karen who was born with Down Syndrome and a severe heart defect and expected to die in “2 weeks to 2 months”. I started researching this with the help of the Down Syndrome Association.
When Karen was 3 weeks old, I told the cardiologist what I found and wanted Karen to live.
The cardiologist then told me there was a heart surgery with an 80-90% success rate if she reached a certain weight at 6 months.
I was overjoyed-until he told us that he would support us “either way” whatever we decided.
I told him that if he was willing to medically discriminate against my daughter, he couldn’t touch her.
He was shocked and backtracked. He eventually became the favorite cardiologist with the Down Syndrome Association.
Unfortunately, Karen became sick with pneumonia and was hospitalized at my Catholic hospital and I was shocked when I was tipped off that my trusted pediatrician had secretly made Karen a DNR (do not resuscitate) against my express wishes.
I transferred her to Barnes Medical Center where the chairman of cardiology was totally supportive.
However, Karen died at 5 ½ months despite excellent care. After Karen died, The chairman of cardiology started the first Down Syndrome Clinic at Barnes.
I started working with the prolife Lawyers for Life and promoting the Reagan administration’s Baby Doe rules.
I wanted to learn more and took a legal nurse consulting course and started my own company.
Working on one case was so time-consuming so I started reviewing cases involved in mass torts. I quit when I found out about the poor ethics of evaluating cases.
I am still called by legal groups like the Life Legal Foundation for consultations which I do for free.
Gordon: As a spokesperson for the National Association of Prolife Nurses , what are your primary responsibilities?
I joined NAPN decades ago when I was contacted by the then-president who read my writings.
I am now on the board of directors, have served as spokesperson and wrote NAPN’s press releases on various issues. Those press releases on my blog.
I have also traveled a lot to various states when asked to speak against proposed assisted suicide laws and healthcare ethics. I also tell the story of my daughter Marie’s tragic and sudden suicide in 2009 using an assisted suicide technique, suicide contagion and the impact on families. I have worked with many people considering suicide both personally and professionally. To my knowledge, my beloved daughter is the only one I couldn’t save.
Gordon: What are some of the topics that you have addressed on Radio Maria?
Steve Koob called me and I have done multiple topics on Radio Maria: abortion, assisted suicide, end if life care, disability issues, healthcare laws, etc.
Gordon: What are some of the challenges in providing hospice care?
Nancy: I love hospice care and being with the terminally ill and dying. I am concerned and have written a lot about the deterioration of traditional hospice principles in favor of promoting assisted suicide, terminal sedation, VSED (voluntary stopping of eating and drinking) withdrawing feeding tubes and lack of rehab for people with brain injuries, “living wills” that are dangerous and misunderstood, families’ wishes for treatment ignored in favor of ethics committees and futility policies (sometimes secret and even in Catholic institutions) and the animus toward conscience rights. I also find disturbing are doctors and nurses who say “This person needs to die” and “I wouldn’t want to live like that.”
Gordon: The People of Life Award is bestowed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on occasion to a practicing Catholic in honor of his or her significant contribution in service to the culture of life, What was your reaction when you received the award in 1995?
Nancy: I was shocked and embarrassed. I told them they must have the wrong number but that I would be happy to nominate some people I felt deserved the award. They said no. I finally accepted the award as a testament to all the good prolife healthcare providers out there.
Gordon: When did you start your blog Nancy Valko - A Nurse's Perspective on Life, Healthcare and Ethics and what are some of the topics that you have covered?
Nancy: After years of writing for various Catholic publications, my wonderful friend Helen Hitchcock who made me write for “Voices-Women for Faith and Family” died suddenly and no one could take her place. I was encouraged to start a blog and I started it in 2015.
I love doing HTMLs instead of footnotes and have been amazed by the positive response.
I now have two blogs-one for blogs since 2015 and a second one at https://nancyvalkowwf.wordpress.com with my older articles, op-eds and interviews that were archived by Women for Faith and Family.
Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional interview.