Born in Hartlepoole, England, Diane Tose’s life embodied the definition of midwife: “with woman.”
During a hospitalization at age 11, she was assigned to help make beds and care for the little ones on the pediatric ward. “By the end of the week I knew I was meant to be a nurse,” she recalled.
After high school, Diane entered nursing training. In the midwifery course she found the profession she loved. Her 50-year practice went from London in the 1960s to caring for HIV-infected women in New York City during the last half of her career.
Coming to the U.S. in her 20s, Diane worked as a nurse until completing the Downstate refresher program for foreign-trained midwives in 1971. Her resume included Director of Midwifery positions, MIC and Harlem Hospital’s Prevention of Prematurity Project.
In 1989 Diane began to care for HIV-infected women and deliver their babies at Columbia Presbyterian (now New York Presbyterian) as part of the NIH Women and Infants Transmission Study (WITS). When she wasn’t doing hands-on patient care, Diane chatted with women waiting for appointments, held babies, tidied and cleaned, and brewed tea. A whirlwind of activity, she made the clinic feel safe and welcoming to often stigmatized patients. Diane was at the heart of a close-knit staff with amazingly low turnover for such difficult work. She became certified in acupuncture for stress reduction, using this skill on coworkers as well as patients.
Whenever Diane learned that one of her patients had been hospitalized – whether in medicine, psych, the AIDS ward — she would visit, bringing encouragement and body lotion, giving massages, and tidying bedside trays and rumpled sheets.
When a critically ill woman craved Chinese food, Diane bought her dinner and fed the patient, who was too weak to lift a fork. It was the woman’s last meal; she died the next day.
Diane supported friends through crises large and small. Her remedies usually included a beverage, ranging from mint tea to gin and tonic, served with large doses of empathy.
Colleague Phyllis Seabrook recalls, “For nearly 40 years we were an unlikely pair, she from Hartlepool, UK and me from Harlem, New York, but our friendship endured. Diane and I worked together for many years. We traveled together, from Alaska to Atlanta, making memories and having fun. We often shared a room at the ACNM annual meetings. She nursed two friends through their final illnesses. Sadly this comfort was denied to Diane. This horrible pandemic kept us away from physically being with Diane but she will forever remain in our hearts.”
Diane is survived by a brother, sister-in-law, and two nephews in England as well as two great nieces and a great nephew whom she adored. Although Diane had no relatives in this country, she became part of the family of Susie Papera, former Midwifery Director at NCB. They spent holidays together, sharing joys and difficulties for decades. To Susie’s daughters she was their beloved Auntie Diane.
Quickening is the official member publication and digital news site for the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Content is written by and for ACNM members and staff.