Dr. Connie Mariano, former President Clinton's doctor, has revealed how the White House team avoided a near-tragedy during Clinton's 1995 visit to Ireland when a member of staff threatened to commit suicide in Dublin Castle where the president was attending a state dinner in his honor.
On December 1st, 1995, as the Clintons and Dr. Mariano stepped off Air Force One during the third day of their European visit, a medical unit nurse informed Mariano that they had received a "very disturbing" call from a psychiatrist in Washington D.C., warning them that a member of staff covering the trip was going to kill herself.
Mariano reveals in her new book, ‘The White House Doctor: My Patients Were Presidents - A Memoir,’ that her initial concern was to ensure that the waiting press didn't notice that anything was wrong and told the nurse to continue smiling and waving to them as they descended from the plane.
The young woman in question, referred to in the book as "Mary", had a history of depression and was assigned as a member of staff for the trip. She had just broken up with her boyfriend and had phoned her psychiatrist in D.C. to inform her that she was very upset and was going to kill herself at midnight at Dublin Castle, where the Clintons would be attending the state dinner, as planned.
Dr. Mariano admits that her initial concern was the implications a suicide would have on the trip and how the media would spin such a tragedy.
"I know it sounds callous, but a suicide during the president's trip by one of his staffers would overshadow all the goodwill this visit could bring. It's all the press would cover, the suicide."
She wondered "how would a suicide associated with the president's visit be perceived? Would the press make it look like the White House didn't adequately screen their staffers? Perhaps they would investigate if the young woman had a relationship with Bill Clinton. A variety of conspiracy theories would erupt."
Despite this, the doctor in her took action and had several Secret Service agents called in to help them find the young woman. They sent the agents to the event sites to look for the woman, had the trip leader and a military aide wait at the hotel, and had the unit nurse contact the American Embassy to have them organize a local hospital for the woman once she was found.
Moreno herself accompanied the president to Dublin Castle that night. She said to the girl's psychiatrist that "although our primary job is to take care of the president, Mary is part of our family. We'll do our best to help her, once we find where she is."
After arriving at Dublin Castle Mariano was diverted from the entourage on a separate tour from the President, where she said that the dim candlelight, intended to be elegant and romantic made the castle look eerie as they searched for the "damsel in distress".
The Secret Service agents had found nothing in Mary's room except her suitcase, which contained bottles full of pills, indicating that Mary had not been taking her prescriptions.
As the evening continued, with Bill and Hilary being "toasted and regaled at the memorable dinner in the great hall", Mariano and her team were listening closely to everything coming in on the radio, "ready to jump at the mention of any irregular activity noted by the numerous agents posted throughout the castle."
Although midnight came and past at Dublin Castle without any sign of the delicate young staff member, Dr. Mariano remained concerned about her health and whereabouts. She was unable to deal with waiting patients when she returned to the hotel that night and asked the other doctor, Dr. Jeff Eschbach, to take care of them.
In the wee hours of the morning she received a call from Dr. Eschbach delightedly announcing, "Doc, we found her. Ran into her in a bar across the street from the hotel. She's in my room with me now."
It turned out Mary had decided not to kill herself at the last minute and went to the pub instead. She had sat there all day watching the presidential motorcade come and go. She was mainly concerned with how she had failed to do her part on the trip as a member of the presidential team.
To avoid further drama Mary was sent on the next flight home the next morning, accompanied by a nurse. Her psychiatrist admitted her for a month of inpatient therapy and the White House was forced to relieve her of her assignment.
Dr. Mariano's book gives a real insight into the action behind the scenes of Clinton's presidency. As Bill and Hilary made their successful trip to Ireland and dealing with the politics, Dr. Mariano and their team dealt with the drama.
Where does the term “the luck of the Irish” come from?