The Block Island Times

“Island Nurse” to debut on PBS

The film about our own Mary Donnelly, Sunday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m.
By Lars Trodson | Sep 22, 2013
Source: Courtesy photo Mary Donnelly is seen here in a scene from the documentary film, “Island Nurse,” which will have its television premiere on Sunday, September 22.

“Very exciting.”

That’s how filmmaker Sue Hagedorn described it after she heard that Rhode Island PBS will broadcast her film, “Island Nurse,” about Block Island’s public health nurse Mary Donnelly.

Hagedorn, who is a nurse (and who also sits on the Block Island Health Services Board of Directors), said about her subject, “Who’s a better subject than Mary D? She’s someone who everyone recognizes and who you want to have with you when you’re sick, or even if you’re thinking about getting sick.”

“Island Nurse” will premier on Rhode Island PBS on Sunday, Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. The Surf Hotel is sponsoring a viewing party that begins at 5:30 p.m., and to which the public is invited. The film will be shown as part of the ongoing series “Rhode Island Stories.”

Hagedorn, through her film company Seedworks Films, often makes documentaries about nurses and their work. In that vein, Donnelly was a natural fit, but the project got off to a bit of a rocky start.

“I called Mary and suggested that I film her. Thinking I was doing the right thing, I said I hear they call you ‘Saint Mary’ and I think that would be a great title for the film,” Hagedorn said. “She didn’t get back to me for six months!”

Donnelly was the state nurse on Block Island for 54 years before her retirement this past May. For many of those years, she was the only health care provider island residents had. The film not only documents her interaction with patients but, through interviews Hagedorn conducted over several years, Donnelly also talks about some of the hardships she and her family experienced. All the same, the film portrays a compassionate, hard-working, ethical and smart professional.

“She has that kind of personality,” said Hagedorn, “And not just because she has love in her heart and God on her shoulder, but because she’s a nurse and she thinks like a nurse. She knows what her responsibility is.”

“Island Nurse” will encore on Sept. 28 at 11 p.m. on WSBE Rhode Island PBS, and on WSBE Learn on Sept. 25 at 10 p.m., Sept. 26 at 5 a.m. and Sept. 27 at 2 a.m.

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