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Good Shepherd stabbing victim leaves loving legacy of nurturing

By Richard Yeakley
Nov. 26, 2013 at 11 p.m.

Gail Sandidge never had a doubt she wanted to be a nurse.

The 1974 Henderson ISD valedictorian, who put herself through school at Baylor University before beginning work for Good Shepherd Health System, was a caregiver to her very core, friends and family said.

"She was not like a chief nursing officer; she didn't want to be at the very top because she didn't want to give up the care-giving. She wanted to be a nurse ever since she was 7 years of age," said Debbie Pritchett, Sandidge's younger sister.

Police say Sandidge was fatally stabbed Tuesday inside Good Shepherd's Ambulatory Surgical Center by the son of a patient.

"A seamstress, a Sunday school teacher of 2-year-olds ... a mother, a grandmother, a healer, a trainer, a mentor, a nurturer, Gail Sandidge," Good Shepherd CEO Steve Altmiller said at an afternoon news conference. "Nurses are protectors by nature, and Gail, she fit that profile. She was protecting her patients in an act of courage today, and in so doing, she lost her life.

"We've seen heroes just doing their jobs."

David English, executive pastor of First Baptist Church where Sandidge attended and taught children, said she would be remembered and honored.

"If you are looking for an example of biblical values or Christ-likeness, she would be an example I would want to hold up. She is about as good as it gets from a human perspective," he said of the 57-year-old woman who often was one of the first to the church each Sunday. "She has been offered ... to go to an adult class, and she would just have nothing to do with it.

"She loved those kids and saw that they were in such a critical stage of life, and I tell you what, we are going to have families that have benefited from that, and kids that have grown up and they are going to honor her life in different ways, but they are going to honor it."

English said serving others was a part of Sandidge's identity.

"From what I have understood of the tragedy ... it would not surprise me one second that she would be the one to try to step up, put her life at jeopardy and try to bring about a peaceful solution," English said. "It doesn't surprise me or anybody else one bit that knows her because that is who she was, and that is what is going to live on."

Sandidge was born into a family of five children. She was honored for her success in becoming a faith-based nurse, community volunteer, softball coach and Sunday school teacher by being named a Longview Regional Medical Center Star Over Longview in 2003.

Pritchett said the mother of two and grandmother of two began to realize she wanted to be a nurse after the death of the family's youngest sibling.

"I think that is probably one of the reasons she went into nursing, because she held my little brother on the way to the hospital when he passed away," she said.

Sandidge's faith is what inspired her work, Pritchett said.

"Her faith was so important to her. That is what I think drove her ambition and her caring for other people. It was kind of her mission to show Christ through the care that she provided," Pritchett said.

Pritchett's husband, Mike, said Sandidge was a continual nurse, offering advice and carrying nursing supplies wherever she went.

"Her kids lived out in Midland, and every time something would happen they would call Gail way back in Longview and start asking medical questions," Debbie Pritchett said. "Any time that we ever had a question, family would always call."

Sandidge was married for 34 years to her husband, Jim. They have two daughters, Kacy Ellis and Kelley Wohlfahrt.



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