May 28, 2004

Bush surprises PCCU staff

Featured Image

Kristin Price, R.N., who was kissed by the president, smiles over his right shoulder in this cell phone photo captured by resident Kris Kemp, M.D.

Bush surprises PCCU staff

Any hopes of laying eyes on the president were dashed Wednesday when the black curtains were hung across any open doorway on the path President George W. Bush would take through the Pediatric Critical Care Unit (PCCU) at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital.

“We were so disappointed,” said Kristin Price, R.N., a nurse on the “red” unit on the fifth floor. “I had been hoping to see him all week, but then we heard he wasn’t coming through our unit.”

That decision seemed final and complete. The “yellow” unit next door had been carefully cordoned off; no patients were inside and security had given it a thorough check to be sure it was safe for the president to hear a brief presentation of the computer systems utilized at Children’s Hospital.

At about 1:15 p.m. yesterday, secret service agents asked the workers in the “red” unit to stand back, away from the black curtain; seemingly to ensure no one would try to sneak a peek.

“But then just as secret service grabbed the edges of the curtain to keep them closed, he (the president) threw them open stuck his head in and said ‘Boo!’” said Paulette Johnson, M.D., an attending physician in the PCCU.

“I screamed!” Price said. “He just came in and told us all to come up and meet him.”

“The best picture at that moment would have been the look on the secret service agents’ faces,” Johnson said. “He couldn’t come very far in, but he started shaking hands and the White House photographer started taking pictures.”

It was then that Price became a legend.

“He had shaken hands and then said he had hurt his chin and who was going to heal him,” Price smiled. “I said I would and he came over and took a picture with Mary Lark Wilson, a family liaison, gave us a hug; and I said, ‘I’d give you a big kiss if you’d let me,’ and he said ‘OK.’ Then he kissed me on the cheek.”

The only person who was able to record the moment was resident Kris Kemp, M.D. He snapped three candid shots on his cell phone camera of the commander-in-chief’s surprise visit.