Smithtown Today got to sit down with an unsung hero of WWII last week. Adele Danon,was just 19 years old when she signed up to serve her country as a member of the US Cadet Nurse Corps. What most of us may not know, is by the year 1945, cadet nurses provided approximately 80% of all the nursing care needs for hospitals across the United States.
During World War II, the majority of registered nurses and doctors were sent overseas to military hospitals and triage centers, leaving an epidemic of understaffed civilian hospitals, on the verge of collapse here at home. For Cadet Nurses like Adele, whose training was still underway by the time the war had ended, no military or health benefits were ever issued. In fact, the first time Adele Danon was ever honored for her service, was during a Veteran’s day ceremony by fellow residents and Veterans living at Gurwin. This was the only time Adele has ever been thanked for her service… which we hope to change.
While training to become a nurse, Adele met her future husband and member of the Royal Air Force, Yoshi, (Joseph in Hebrew) although, Adele tells us, everyone called him John. His family fled Yugoslavia to escape Hitler’s reign of terror, to Italy and then to Ecuador, where they were given permanent Visas. John’s Father was able to stay in America after he came to the States during the World Fair in 1939. It was during a visit to see his father, when Adele first met John.
“He was visiting America for six weeks, when I first met and fell in love with him. I even went back to Ecuador with him, because the U.S. wouldn’t issue permanent Visas for him and his family.” – Adele Danon
Adele and John made a life together on the South Shore, in Long Beach. Together they raised a daughter and a son. Today, Adele is the proud grandmother of three grandsons and one great granddaughter. She tells us her son gets his musical prowess from her husband, John who could play any instrument he picked up.
Adele Danon was proud of her training and chose to continue her profession, during a time after the war, when many women went back to the home. Adele went back to school at Marymount Manhattan College, where she received her RN with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She trained and later worked at Mount Sinai hospital. We asked Adele what was different back when she first became a nurse.
“You had to be 18 to train, 21 years old to take the boards and you had to be at least five feet tall. I was Five foot, six inches. Also, you had to have spent a specific amount of time working in the various departments, before you could take the state boards for each one. For example, I had to deliver at least eight babies and spend a minimum of three months in the delivery room before I could take my boards for the OB GYN certifications”
Adele continued to explain how the training to become a registered RN was very similar to a Doctor’s residency. Her long resume includes working throughout various departments at Mount Sinai, South Nassau, Mercy Medical Center and Grandell Rehab & Nursing Center, where she retired at age 85. Adele Danon has what seems to be unending credentials, at the end of her name. She is certified in the O.R., E.R., OB GYN, Geriatric care and the list goes on.
We interviewed Adele Danon about her long career and life experiences…
What was your favorite part of the job?
I loved the night shift. I guess I’ve always been a night person. But the night shift keeps you on your toes.
What was your least favorite part of the job?
Pediatrics. It will break your heart. There is absolutely nothing more difficult than watching such a young, innocent life, fight to endure a terminal diagnosis, like Cancer. It was just too much to bare witness to.
What was the most rewarding part of your job?
When someone comes into the Operating room or Emergency room, in such critical condition that they are not likely to survive… and they make it. There’s nothing like witnessing those unexpected miracles.
What is different about your job or your training in today’s world?
Technology is obviously the first thing that comes to mind. Post-Op care is very different as well. Back when I first became a nurse, the post-op procedure for cataracts or an optical surgery was to remain still for a week. You couldn’t move your head for a whole week! We know better nowadays. Also, the system and training to become a nurse today is not as hands on as it used to be. I think the limited training holds you back today. Back then, we got to work in every department while studying to become a nurse, so you knew first hand, what specialties interested you most. I wouldn’t become a nurse in today’s world because of the current system.
What Pivotal moments do you remember most about your early years, when you first became a nurse?
I was a Nurse at the peak of the women’s equal rights movement, before Roe Vs. Wade. I saw my fair share of self induced abortions. Women used to take slippery elm or worse. By the time they would get to the hospital it was too late. They would already have internal bleeding. Most did not survive.
So Equality and Women’s Rights is a big part of your belief system?
I worked my entire life, just as hard if not harder than any man. So yes, I believe that I am entitled to and deserve equal rights. And… while I believe in the equality of the sexes, I don’t support the cheapening of sex. We worked so hard get Women the respect we command today, in business and personal life. When you make sex cheap, you set all women years back.
So who do you admire as a strong woman in history?
I always loved Eleanor Roosevelt. She was an activist for women’s rights, long before it was the politically correct thing to do. Although, I lost respect for F.D.R. after he turned away the SS Saint Louis and the Jewish refugees that had fled Nazi Germany… Eleanor Roosevelt to me, was a trailblazer for not only women’s rights, but she advocated for WWII refugees and racial equality. Also, I think that Hillary Clinton has been an inspiring role model for Women’s rights for some time. From her early years in the public eye, she had the spunk to bring up gender equality around the world, not just here at home.
Adele Danon, is currently a resident at Gurwin Jewish Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a former member of the US Cadet Nurse Corps and recently retired from a long career in Nursing.