With thousands of deliveries, Dr. Killeen understood women
Dr. Vinny Killeen brought somewhere around 20,000 babies into this life during 29 years of practicing obstetrics and gynecology in Lewes. That’s more Beebe baby deliveries than any other doctor in the hospital’s 100-year history.
This week he went the other direction, checking out of this life at age 65, the victim of lung cancer.
In all those years of delivering, he must have developed a deep understanding of babies.
“He certainly knew about the correct way to deliver babies, but probably understood more about women,” said Meta Sharp Franz, a registered nurse and lactation specialist who worked with Dr. Killeen for 34 years at Beebe Healthcare. “He cared for women and mothers; he was surrounded by us at the hospital and at his Bayside Health practice, and he had his wife and three daughters at home.
“Starting with girls at 13 or 14,” said Franz, “he took care of us from pre-menstrual through menopause and was often with us at childbirth. He would see you at your worst and at your best. It was always about a lot more than your physical body. A woman goes through so many changes in her life, and he was part of the most important changes.”
Courtney Stoeckel started working with Dr. Killeen when she was 12, filing records in the office alongside her mother, Missy Warren. Stoeckel stayed in the medical field and continued to work alongside Dr. Killeen after earning her nursing degree and specializing in ob/gyn. In all, she worked around him for 25 years.
“He was my doctor from age 14 and he delivered both of my children,” she said. “He had a wonderful bedside manner, loved what he did, and smiled through it all. I never saw him upset. And even after getting that diagnosis last December, and going through treatments, he was still operating up until July.”
Warren echoed much of what her daughter said. “He was always the same. He wasn’t one of those people who would fly off the handle. He had a great way of putting himself in your shoes, and he did understand women. I think that’s why he made out so well in this profession.”
Stoeckel and Franz remember all the nights Dr. Killeen would sleep in the lounge of the delivery units, on call and between deliveries. “When we woke him, either there or at home, he was never cranky,” said Franz. “If at home, he would always answer on the first ring, no matter what time of night it was,” said Stoeckel.
“It would sound like he was waiting for the call.”
“And he and his partner, Dr. Steve Berlin, would come in for deliveries even if they weren’t on call,” said Franz. “They’re just a different breed of doctor. Dr. Killeen took calls right up until he couldn’t practice any longer. Doctors that age don’t usually take call.”
“He delivered both of my children when he wasn’t on call,” said Stoeckel.
“And he was always teaching,” said Franz. “He would show you all the correct maneuvers. He would put your hands on there with his to teach you how to deliver babies correctly. Doctors aren’t always here when the baby comes. We have to know too. And he was cool, calm and collected, even if a baby was insisting on coming out feet first.”
“He never slowed down,” said Stoeckel. “He would always call at night after a hysterectomy. Just wanted to know how things were going. And we would tell the patients that Dr. Killeen called - so that they would know they were special enough that he was calling to check on them.”
Beebe Healthcare President Jeff Fried said Dr. Killeen was always looking for ways to make things better at Beebe. “He knew that we couldn’t do it all, but he wanted us to be the best at what we did. He and Dr. Berlin pioneered certain laparoscopic procedures in their area of practice, and Dr. Killeen was the only doctor I can recall who ever had resident doctors come through from Christiana Care. They enjoyed it here because they would get more surgical experience than at Christiana. And he never brought a problem to me that he didn’t have an idea on how to solve.”
Vinny and Debbie were breakfasting on a sunny Sunday morning in July at Hammerheads at Indian River Inlet. Becky and I chanced upon them and we had a pleasant conversation.
Vinny talked about his disease and the treatments he was having. He was upbeat and positive, but realistic. “There’s no way around it,” he said. “It’s a tough diagnosis.”
Still, he was happy to be out with his wife on a nice day in this place he chose to make his home and where he has helped so many people.
That was just as predictable as Dr. Killeen’s Brooks Brothers shirts, his crisp white lab coat, the big, happy personality that Warren said so many people will miss, and the occasional stray hair on his bald pate that would bring a smile when nurses in delivery pulled a pair of bandage scissors from their pocket to clip it off.