The Edmond Sun

November 18, 2013

Remembering Kennedy

Local doctor recalls hospital scene

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Patient care in Dallas began as usual 50 years ago Nov. 22 at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, recalled Dr. Betty Ayers of Edmond.

When in her third year of Southwestern Medical School, Ayers was eating breakfast in the hospital’s cafeteria on Nov. 22, 1963. She spoke to friends about President John F. Kennedy’s visit to Dallas that day.

Afterwards, she made her routine clinical rounds on the hospital’s third floor as Lee Harvey Oswald prepared to assassinate Kennedy with a sniper’s bullet from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

Oswald fired his rifle at Kennedy as the president’s uncovered limousine passed through Dealy Plaza at 12:30 p.m. A bullet penetrated through Kennedy’s neck. A second shot mortally injured Kennedy in the head, according to the Warren Commission. Texas Gov. John Connally survived a bullet wound to his back, chest, arm and leg, said Ayers, 74.

“I was actually on the Surgery Service with the resident who actually saw him (Kennedy) in the emergency room,” Ayers said. “We were in clinic that morning. He said, ‘Well I’m going to go on the emergency room because we have an admission with a guy with a ruptured ulcer.’”

She began to follow him near the noon hour, but was told she was supposed to be in the operating room suite to watch a movie on the resection of the rectosignoid.

“Then one of my classmates came in and said, ‘The president and the governor have been shot and they’re downstairs,’” Ayers said. “And we said, ‘Oh come on Otto.’ We didn’t believe him.” Ayers walked into the hall and saw Connally looking pale, being taken to surgery.

“The head thoracic surgeon stopped and told us that yes, the president was dead,” she said.

Ayers recalled running up a staircase later in the day and almost running over a woman wearing a little pill box hat. That woman was Lady Bird Johnson, Ayers said. Secret service swarmed the hospital.

“It was pretty wild around there that day. For one thing Connally, the governor, was still very much alive,” Ayers said.

Cell phones and beepers had not been invented. An uncommon sound was heard on the hospital intercoms of voices calling for the immediate attention of whoever was head of neurology and other medical departments.

An orthopedist, chest surgeon and a general surgeon responded to aid Connally. The press was at the hospital wanting answers. A wing of the surgical floor was closed for Connally following his surgery, Ayers said.

“Everybody was shocked. Like everybody else, it was total shock, but you continued on,” Ayers continued.

She cannot remember what she did the rest of the day, but said a Texas Ranger asked her for identification the next day at the hospital.

Ayers was at Parkland the following Sunday, when Jack Ruby had shot and killed Oswald at the Dallas Police Headquarters when he was being transferred to the county jail.

“I went home and my roommate said, ‘Oswald has been shot and he’s at Parkland now.’ I didn’t know it at the time that I was in the hospital, but I was probably there.”

After 50 years, Ayers is no longer reminded of Kennedy’s assassination every day.

“I remember making rounds and changing bandages on surgical patients while watching the funeral procession on the patients’ televisions,” Ayers said. | 341-212