Kathleen Matullo, right, chats with nurse Maria Knapp as she...

Kathleen Matullo, right, chats with nurse Maria Knapp as she walks through the halls at Plainview Hospital. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Every two weeks, Ernest Sparacino heads to Plainview Hospital for blood transfusions. And when he gets there, he knows he can count on Kathleen Matullo in Admitting to greet him.

“Kathie goes out of her way to make sure all the paperwork is in order and get me to the right area for my treatments,” said the 79-year-old Massapequa Park resident, who has a blood cell disorder known as myelodysplastic syndrome. “On the way, her friendly conversation is very comforting — like we are just friends going for coffee. I always look forward to seeing her when I come in.”

Matullo, 81, of Plainview, has the distinction of being the longest-serving current employee at Northwell Health, which had been known as the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System after a merger in 1997 between North Shore Health System and the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. For 57 years, the admissions registrar has been a reassuring presence at Plainview Hospital, offering a kind word or sharing a laugh with patients as they arrive.

Beyond her work, the hospital has also been a place of great personal tragedy, but also joy: It’s where her mother and son were treated when they were ill, where her husband spent his last days in hospice and where one of her daughters was born.

“I love the hospital, I really do,” said Matullo. “This is my hospital.”


Matullo’s calming presence caught the attention of Kerri Anne Scanlon, Plainview Hospital’s new executive director, on her first visit to the hospital.

“She was one of the first people I met,” said Scanlon, who also helms Syosset and Glen Cove hospitals. “When patients come in and they’re having surgery, that’s who you’re meeting. And the first people you meet make all the difference in the world. It reduces the anxiety.”

Kerri Anne Scanlon, left, with Matullo and Northwell Health President...

Kerri Anne Scanlon, left, with Matullo and Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling at a recent hospital town hall. Credit: Northwell Health

Over the years, Matullo has earned the nickname “Mama Matullo” among staffers. First coined by Kathy Efinger Scott, a neighbor of Matullo’s who later came to work as a ward clerk at the hospital, it gradually caught on with other employees, many of whom Matullo said feel more like friends and family than coworkers.

“The Northwell family is really my second family,” Matullo said. “They treat me with such respect.”

On her 80th birthday last year, Matullo arrived, as she typically does, at 6:30 a.m., and found the door to the Admitting Office closed, which was quite unusual, she said. Opening the door, she was greeted by all her coworkers, who showered her with gifts, flowers and cards amid an office festooned with colorful crepe paper and balloons.

“A young coworker, Shivani Peters, who was off that day, was here at 6 a.m. to celebrate,” Matullo said, of the 27-year-old. “Imagine a young person getting up so early, on her day off, to celebrate my special day!”

In his tribute to her for that birthday celebration, William Harrington, director of admitting and Matullo’s supervisor, pointed out that when she first worked in the registrar (now admissions) for Central General Hospital (renamed Plainview Hospital in 1994), work was done on a typewriter.

“Kathie has been part of every technological advancement in patient access over the next 55 years,” Harrington wrote.


Matullo’s remarkably long stint at the hospital happened by chance.

After her mother underwent hip surgery, Matullo said she took her in for five months while she recovered. A visiting nurse who paid weekly visits to Matullo’s home taught her how to wash her mother’s hair and care for her in her convalescence.

At the end of the five months, Matullo said the woman told her, “ ‘I don’t believe that your mother doesn’t have a bedsore. I never saw anybody so clean in this situation.’ She said, ‘You would do great in a hospital.’ ”

At the time, Matullo was a 25-year-old stay-at-home mom caring for two children, Robert, 4, and Lauren, 2, as well as her mother and two dogs.

Encouraged by the nurse’s suggestion, Matullo began working weekends and holidays in the registrar at Central General Hospital and filled in for employees out sick or on vacation. Soon, she said, she was working there full time.

Undated photo of Matullo at work.

Undated photo of Matullo at work. Credit: Handout/Alejandra Villa Loarca

On a typical day, Matullo’s duties include registering patients for procedures like colonoscopies and endoscopies, lab work and presurgical and other tests.

“We have to verify all the info,” Matullo said. “Make sure everything’s correct, the insurance, get the signatures.”

But Matullo goes above and beyond, accompanying patients on the elevator and escorting them to various departments throughout the hospital for radiology, endoscopies, vascular studies, MRIs, oncology treatments, as well as to the lab.

“We have such a nice conversation,” Matullo said. “I always talk to them and laugh sometimes. People are really having a tough time.”

Recently, Matullo pointed out to a patient how her shoe had gotten soaked from a heavy rain.

“To make him laugh, I said, ‘You notice how I’m walking. My shoe is stretched out.’ I said, ‘I have a piece of toilet paper in the toe.’ It just broke the ice,” she said.

Matullo can empathize with the patients, as she has had an intimate experience with sickness herself. She cared for her father before he died of colon cancer and then her mother, who, suffering from chronic illnesses, lived with her for 25 years. Her son, Robert, who had a long history of medical issues, died on June 21, 2022, after contracting COVID post-surgery, Matullo said.

“This is why, when it comes to people, when I see what they’re going through I always try to talk to them,” she said.

Matullo’s caring influence has extended to her daughter, Janice Curry, who recalled countless hours at the hospital visiting her mom at work or family members who were ill.

“Just being in this environment and seeing people who are ill, and just how you can make such a huge difference in people’s lives and people’s families definitely influenced me to work in health care,” said Curry, 48, of Hauppauge, who is a maternity nurse at Huntington Hospital.

And Matullo’s granddaughter, who said she always knew she wanted to be in health care, works as an ultrasound technician at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

“I grew up (with) my grandma always talking about her job and how much she loves it, all her friends here,” said Jessica Ciejka, 29, who lives in Port Jefferson Station. “I wanted to be that person to intervene in somebody’s part of their life where they’re going through something really difficult and be somebody that is a part of giving them help.”

Kathleen Matullo gets a surprise visit from her daughter, Janice...

Kathleen Matullo gets a surprise visit from her daughter, Janice Curry, left, and granddaughter Jessica Ciejka. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca


Working in admissions for the past 20 years, Ronald Tan, 56, who lives in Levittown, said Matullo has “always been an inspiration. Her dedication is bar none.”

Calling her “a great lady,” Evelyn Von Eschen, 63, of North Babylon, said Matullo has taught her a lot. Though she’s worked in the Plainview Hospital’s admitting department for the past 14 years, Von Eschen said she still hears Matullo’s voice in her head when she’s working.

“ ‘Make sure they have this; make sure they have that. If it’s this, you have to do that,’ ” Von Eschen said.

A nurse in case management at Plainview Hospital, Margaret Vincent, 63, of Huntington, said, “Kathie is always very calm, and she just has handled everything personally and professionally with grace and class. That defines Kathie: grace and class.”

For Matullo, the Golden Rule applies to her life and work.

“I like to treat people the way I want to be treated,” she said. “I want to treat your father the way I wanted my father treated.”  


A big part of her day is putting patients at ease.

“That’s why I love the job,” Matullo said. “It allows me to help those in need and make a difference in someone’s life. Making someone laugh, listening to them share — every day, that’s what I do.”

Some patients are so grateful they give her tokens of their appreciation.

A 96-year-old veteran who came in for blood transfusions made her a laminated card expressing his gratitude, while another patient, who was undergoing chemotherapy, made a small lace-covered angel for her.

“She said, ‘I want you to keep it and always think of me.’ And I have it in my china closet. It’s my treasure,” Matullo said.

Stephen Mahoney, of Arthur F. White Funeral Home in Farmingdale and Bethpage, whose work sometimes brings him to the hospital, always greets Matullo affectionately.

“I mean, who gets a hug and a kiss from a funeral director?” Matullo said.

As Matullo walks through the hospital, she seems to know just about everybody. She gets daily hugs from Alicia Jenkins, the mail clerk, and Paulette Allwood, the hospital’s cashier. When Matullo’s son died, she said Jamie Idrovo, who works in patient registration, brought her a bouquet of flowers and a card. “He said he was only a hug away,” she said. “Every day that I see him, I get a hug.”

Asked whether she would ever consider retiring, Matullo demurs. Working, she said, is “very rewarding to me. I just love it.

“As long as I can get up at 4 a.m., do the job that I love, I have no plans,” she said. “They say when it’s time, you will know.”

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