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VICTORY for the credibility of Parkland nurse Audrey Bell


Micah Mileto

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When Nurse Audrey Bell was interviewed by the HSCA in 1977, the record does not show her mentioning anything about seeing JFK's body. Beginning in the 80's, Bell would proceed to tell researchers that she was in Trauma Room One and that Dr. Perry or another doctor turned Kennedy's head to show her the extent of the large head wound. Many have been under the false impression that Bell never talked about being in Trauma Room One until the 1980's. A lucky Google search from me revealed a November 1967 paper authored by Bell herself, published in the journal of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses. The paper, titled Forty-Eight Hours and Thirty-One Minutes, reads: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001209208700474

Time stood still for us. It is nearly impossible to recall all that took place and all that was done in such a short period. When I reached the emergency elevator, I found that it was in the basement. Still in my street clothes and high heels, which almost sent me sprawling, I took the stairs and cut through the X-ray Department. At the door of the Emergency Suite, the administrator grasped my arm and it was a moment or two before she recognized me in the street clothes. "The President?" I breathed. "Go see what you can do, Audrey," she replied. "In Emergency Room One."      

 

Three Doctors and two nurses surrounded John F. Kennedy. They were working with mechanical precision. One nurse, Mrs. Hutton, was adjusting the IPPB unit. She asked for assistance. I turned on the oxygen at the wall outlet. The machine started working and was connected to the endotracheal tube.

    

I helped cut the President's shirt from his right arm, and positioned the tracheotomy tray for Dr. Perry.    

 

It was then that I saw the massive head wound. Even though the prospect of surgery-after viewing the proportions of the wound and the general condition of the President-was improbable, I rushed off in search of a telephone to call the Operating Room. [...]

 

[...]

 

ALMOST FOUR YEARS have elapsed since November 22, 1963. In those years I have tried to identify some of the emotions I experienced during the days that followed the tragedy. The first feeling I had is probably one shared by most other Americans: a feeling of disbelief, a refusal to believe that such a thing could happen-only, my feeling was perhaps all the more severe because of my close personal involvement. In fact, the shock was so great that I actually had temporary amnesia during the time. I could remember nothing of what had happened in the weeks prior to the horrible event.      

 

Even today, my memory of what happened in the hospital during the days ensuing the tragedy, is vague and unclear. Time was a continuum with no stops, no differentiation between hour and hour, day and day. 

 

The human mind is peculiar in the way it reacts to great stress. When the pressure becomes too great to bear, for a consciousness to focus upon something, the mind invents an escape. It was long after the tragedy that I realized how absurd many of the things I was thinking were, under the conditions.              

 

Perhaps the first thing that struck me when I saw President Kennedy on the Emergency Room table, fatally wounded, was that he was such a tall man-too tall, I reflected, for his feet were overhanging the end of the table. I was surprised, too, at seeing him wearing a blue and white pinstriped shirt-I had always pictured the President as wearing only white. When I helped cut the shirt away from his arm, I recall trying to cut it up the seams, to save it from further damage. The tragi-comic nature of that notion was far from my feverish mind at the time. Perhaps, too, after seeing the wound , I secretly knew that our efforts would be futile, and I wanted to do something more, anything, to help.        

 

I also hazily recall seeing a lady in a pink dress-a blood-spattered pink dress-standing close to the President in the Emergency Room. Some moments went by before I realized that she was Jacqueline Kennedy. She seemed quite composed . I know, though, that the composure resulted from shock. She was stunned. Later, in retrospect, I thought Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally were probably the only two self-contained persons I saw on that day.        

 

I know that I shall carry the trauma of that experience with me for the rest of my life. I hope and pray no one else will ever have to undergo a similar experience. The intervening years have served to ameliorate the shock. They have not dulled the pain.

Edited by Micah Mileto
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Nice one Micah.

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While this lends credence to Bell's claim she was in the room, it damages her ultimate claim Perry showed her the head wound, and that it was low on the back of the head. Her discussion of trauma rings true, however, and offers us an insight as to why her story changed. 

Thanks for sharing. 

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14 minutes ago, Pat Speer said:

 

Nothing in the 1967 paper indicates against the notion that a doctor showed her the head wound. She said she saw the head wound after mentioning standing near Perry.

 

During Harrison Livingstone's 1992 Dallas conference, Audrey Bell said "I remember Dr. Perry turned Kennedy's head to show me the wound", she then turned to Dr. McClelland and said "or it could've been you". McClelland didn't give a reply, but nevertheless, the interaction suggests an air of honesty.

 

Edit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGyvZ1aDdAo&t=2679s

Edited by Micah Mileto
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36 minutes ago, Micah Mileto said:

Nothing in the 1967 paper indicates against the notion that a doctor showed her the head wound. She said she saw the head wound after mentioning standing near Perry.

 

During Harrison Livingstone's 1992 Dallas conference, Audrey Bell said "I remember Dr. Perry turned Kennedy's head to show me the wound", she then turned to Dr. McClelland and said "or it could've been you". McClelland didn't give a reply, but nevertheless, the interaction suggests an air of honesty.

 

Edit:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGyvZ1aDdAo&t=2679s

You’re right, Micah. Bell doesn’t mention the location of the head wound; and like you said, she mentions that she saw the wound either immediately after or while she was positioning the tracheotomy tray for Dr. Perry. That places Bell, with Perry, right next to JFK’s head. It seems plausible, though not conclusive, that Perry pointed out the wound to her, perhaps to point out the futility in what they were doing. 

There may be other reasons to doubt Bell’s later claims, but this article isn’t one of them. Good find. 

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14 minutes ago, Tom Gram said:

You’re right, Micah. Bell doesn’t mention the location of the head wound; and like you said, she mentions that she saw the wound either immediately after or while she was positioning the tracheotomy tray for Dr. Perry. That places Bell, with Perry, right next to JFK’s head. It seems plausible, though not conclusive, that Perry pointed out the wound to her, perhaps to point out the futility in what they were doing. 

There may be other reasons to doubt Bell’s later claims, but this article isn’t one of them. Good find. 

I agree that the article lends support to her being in the room, but reading this stuff led me to re-read some of the other stuff she said. And she's just not credible. She said she was helping to position a tracheotomy tray, which lends credence to her being near the head of the stretcher, close enough to see the head wound. But she told Gunn she NEVER saw the throat wound! What??? The head is pulled back in preparation for a tracheotomy. (This is demonstrated in the image below.) If she helped prepare for the tracheotomy, she would have undoubtedly seen the throat wound. That's just a fact. 

image.png.bf689c8569d6367d2ff200365269b7ea.png

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 Doctor Dulany said in an interview that when he first walked in that another doctor, he can't remember who, turned JFK'S  head to the side to show the full extent of the wound. Very similar to  Nurse Bell's account. 

 In Dr Jones's WC testimony he said he took the call from the cafeteria. He was told JFK had been shot and would be there shortly. He said he hung up and turned to Nurse Bell telling her to prepare the operating room for surgery. I wonder if seeing the location and nature of the gunshot wound would help her prepare the O.R.?

He also said when he arrived in trauma 1 with Perry,  Dr Carrico and maybe  Dulany were present. He also said nurses Bowron, Henchcliffe and Nelson were there. With 5 or 6 staff already present, it may be that when Bell arrived there were several staff standing around the neck area. That may be why she did not see the neck wound.  If she stood near the head of the table her view to it could have been blocked by JFK'S head. It is also possible the hands of Dr Perry or anyone else assisting blocked her view.

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49 minutes ago, Chris Bristow said:

 

Not remembering seeing the throat wound is not the same as actually never seeing the throat wound.

Also,

 

In a  November 1988 newspaper article, Dr. Ronald Jones, Nurse Audrey Bell, and Parkland assistant administrator Steve Landregan posed for a photo inside of an emergency room at Parkland - an the caption says "Jones and Bell worked to save Kennedy, although Bell knew at once his wounds were fatal" : https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/132394283/

 

Although this stops just short of having another witness to corroborate Bell being in Trauma Room One.

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2 hours ago, Pat Speer said:

I agree that the article lends support to her being in the room, but reading this stuff led me to re-read some of the other stuff she said. And she's just not credible. She said she was helping to position a tracheotomy tray, which lends credence to her being near the head of the stretcher, close enough to see the head wound. But she told Gunn she NEVER saw the throat wound! What??? The head is pulled back in preparation for a tracheotomy. (This is demonstrated in the image below.) If she helped prepare for the tracheotomy, she would have undoubtedly seen the throat wound. That's just a fact. 

image.png.bf689c8569d6367d2ff200365269b7ea.png

The throat wound was tiny, assisting in a tracheostomy through, she may not have noticed it specifically as things progressed.  She did notice the large exit wound in the back of the head.

Edited by Ron Bulman
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7 minutes ago, Ron Bulman said:

The throat wound was tiny, assisting in a tracheostomy through, she may not have noticed it specifically as things progressed.  She did notice the large exit wound in the back of the head.

Perry said that he initially wondered if the throat wound was just the beginning of a tracheostomy.

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6 minutes ago, Ron Bulman said:

The throat wound was tiny, assisting in a tracheostomy through, she may not have noticed it specifically as things progressed.  She did notice the large exit wound in the back of the head.

In retrospect, she may have left before the incision was performed. People tend to over-estimate time in dramatic situations. The thought occurs that maybe she was only there for a minute or two, just after Perry took over from Carrico, but before the tracheotomy was performed. 

I'd like to re-assess her credibility but don't have access to all I need. The article Micah discovered is behind a paywall. If you could send that my way, Micah, it would be appreciated. I see as well that there was an HSCA interview? Has that been published? Is that available? 

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1 hour ago, Pat Speer said:

In retrospect, she may have left before the incision was performed. People tend to over-estimate time in dramatic situations. The thought occurs that maybe she was only there for a minute or two, just after Perry took over from Carrico, but before the tracheotomy was performed. 

I'd like to re-assess her credibility but don't have access to all I need. The article Micah discovered is behind a paywall. If you could send that my way, Micah, it would be appreciated. I see as well that there was an HSCA interview? Has that been published? Is that available? 

https://web.archive.org/web/20150508082432/https://www.whokilledjfk.net/audrey_bell.htm

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5 hours ago, Pat Speer said:

In retrospect, she may have left before the incision was performed. People tend to over-estimate time in dramatic situations. The thought occurs that maybe she was only there for a minute or two, just after Perry took over from Carrico, but before the tracheotomy was performed. 

I'd like to re-assess her credibility but don't have access to all I need. The article Micah discovered is behind a paywall. If you could send that my way, Micah, it would be appreciated. I see as well that there was an HSCA interview? Has that been published? Is that available? 

newspapers.com newspages has an OCR feature that allows anybod to read the scanned text, also it allows anybody to look at whole clippings. Newspapers.com is pretty cool, like a Google for the past. FamilyTree and NewspaperArchives are cool too.

Edited by Micah Mileto
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