Edith Bernice Sacks, 91, dedicated her life to nursing premature babies

June 04, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Edith Bernice Sacks, a nurse who devoted her life to caring for premature babies and other children, died May 28 in her sleep at Sinai Hospital. The Pikesville resident was 91.

During more than 60 years of nursing -- most of it at Sinai -- Ms. Sacks won recognition for her work with infants. She dedicated her life to thousands of babies who arrived in her ward over the decades.

She preferred the night shift, because it enabled her to comfort parents who came in after their workday had ended.

"She did what she did just out of a love for the babies, their families and for nursing," said Hannah J. Davenport, a Sinai nurse and longtime colleague of Ms. Sacks'. "She lived for this, and she excelled at it."

Said her brother, Ellsworth Sacks of Pikesville and Florida: "She was from the old school, where dedication was more important than money or anything like that."

Ms. Sacks was born in Baltimore in 1908, one of 13 children of tailor Benjamin L. Sacks and his wife, Mary.

The family lived in Canton until 1920, when they moved to Park Heights. Ms. Sacks attended Western High School and in 1928 graduated from the school of nursing at West Baltimore General Hospital, later Liberty Medical Center.

After graduation, Ms. Sacks joined the staff of Sydenham Hospital, later part of the University of Maryland medical system, tending to children with tuberculosis, polio and other communicable diseases.

She then went into private care, tending to patients of all ages in homes and hospitals throughout Baltimore.

When Ms. Sacks' father became ill with kidney cancer, she stopped work to care for him.

Benjamin Sacks died in 1941. Not long afterward, Mary Sacks developed severe circulatory problems, losing both legs.

As she had done for her father, Ms. Sacks later put aside her hospital nursing career to care for her mother, who died in 1958.

In the early 1960s, Ms. Sacks ended her 20-year absence from hospital work, taking a position at Sinai Hospital. Shortly after her arrival, she joined Sinai's unit for premature babies.

During her career of feeding, soothing and monitoring her patients, Ms. Sacks received statewide awards for her nursing work and was featured in newspaper articles and television programs.

Many of the children Ms. Sacks treated came from some of the city's roughest neighborhoods, and she remained interested in them long after they left her care.

In a 1993 profile, Ms. Sacks said that whenever she learned of a young person dying from violence, she wondered: "Was that one of my children?"

At her Pikesville home, she kept a wall of photographs and letters sent by parents and children she had aided.

Until a hip fracture in the early 1990s, Ms. Sacks worked full time. After a year of recuperation, she returned to work part time in 1992. She suffered an aneurysm and retired in 1994 at age 85.

"It was the biggest upset in her life when she couldn't work anymore," said her brother, Bernard Sacks of Owings Mills.

A memorial service was held Tuesday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.

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