by Henry Lane Hull
For over 40 years the Northern Neck has benefited immeasurably from the presence of Rappahannock General Hospital. As one who can remember the days before we had a local hospital, I can attest personally to the tremendous difference the hospital has made in our community.
Many individuals have contributed to the progress we have made because of the hospital, some in more visible roles than others. One of those who has been a major player in the workings of the hospital for over 35 years has been Donald Conaway, who serves in the operating room as a First Surgical Assistant and Surgical Technologist.
Donald has the ideal personality for dealing with those undergoing surgery. He is always calm, willing to help in any way possible and with a sense of humor that can relieve the atmosphere attendant to tense situations. Recently Donald was re-certified in his field both as a Surgical First Assistant, which he has been for over 25 years, and a Surgical Technologist, in which role he has served for over 30 years. He has been with the hospital almost since its inception.
Being innately intellectually curious and eager to learn all that he can, Donald thrives on understanding the new procedures that have advanced the practice of surgery over the course of his career. He especially likes seeing the progress in the field of orthopedics, which enhances the opportunities for patients’ mobility.
As one who truly enjoys his work, Donald finds a calling in assisting in surgeries that will empower folks who are ailing to reclaim their previous levels of energy, which in some case might have been lost for many years. In his case his work is far more than a job, as is evident in any conversation in which he speaks enthusiastically about helping people. Many of those who have benefited from his abiding care are unaware of his role in their progress, having been under anesthesia while he has been by their side assisting the surgeon in their procedures.
In his time away from the hospital, Donald served on the Lancaster County Board of Supervisors, where among other activities he played a major role in the effort to keep the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge open 24 hours a day when VDOT was planning to close it for nighttime travel during the resurfacing project from 1993 to 1996.
The derailing of that plan, which forced VDOT to adjust to the will of the citizenry, was a great example of people being united having the capacity to make government listen to their needs. Donald spoke eloquently at the public hearings that brought about the change. As a supervisor, Donald was attentive to the people of his district and equally manifested the ability to pull together for the good of the county as a whole.
In addition to his years of public service, Donald founded the Church of the Deliverance in upper Lancaster County and has continued to serve as its pastor. For Donald his work on many fronts is part of a seamless garment of doing his part to be of assistance to others in their times of need as well as their times of happiness and celebration.
Donald and I have been friends for over 25 years now and when we speak I frequently tell him of my admiration for his work, but hope I shall not need his medical services anytime soon. He smiles and replies, “Yes, but we are there when you do.”
That phrase encapsulates the person Donald is, always ready and prepared to do his part in making life better for others and in the process making the community better for us all.