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Memories of St. Mary's Hospital

by Bob Stealey

EDITOR

In early 1977, patients in the former St. Mary's Hospital -- it later became United Hospital Center's Downtown Division -- were transferred to the current UHC complex. (It had formerly been known as the new Union Protestant Hospital, and later as UHC's South Division.)

My more recent memories sometimes don't serve me quite as well as the older ones, so I don't recall exactly how long the brick building that housed St. Mary's stood before falling to the wrecker's ball.

Often, I've had vivid recollections of that hospital. One thing that I think was significant about the aging facility was the very meticulous care that was given to ensure pure, sterile conditions at all times. (This is not to say that other area hospitals at the time didn't exert the same efforts toward sterility.)

All that aside now, I'll mention some memories of the hospital. As you walked in the front door of St. Mary's Hospital, you entered a lobby, with the admissions desk to the left. Visitors often would wait, sitting or standing, in the lobby as they waited for a taxi in the cold or wet weather. The taxis or private automobiles would pull up the semi-circular driveway and wait in front of the door beneath the protective marquee.

The ground floor was just that -- the ground floor. To reach the first floor, you had to take the elevator or the stairs up one flight. The west corridor ran along the opposite side of the lobby, with the emergency room just a step or two to the left down the hall. The ambulance entrance was just to the left of the hospital as you faced its front. There was an unloading bay between the west and east wings. If I'm not mistaken, that same entrance is there today, serving as the exit from the BB&T drive-through on South Chestnut Street.

In the west corridor, to reach the elevator or stairs, you'd walk a short distance to the right, and there they were. Can't really remember that it was ever an automatic elevator, unless it was converted in the latter years of the operation of the hospital.

If you had to report to the Radiology Department for an X-ray, you'd go to the first floor and walk down a rather long corridor. Usually in the daytime hours, there were quite a few people waiting along the wall in that corridor. A few steps further would take you to a back door entrance/exit, with a cement ramp outside that was level with Washington Avenue.

The operating room(s) seemed to be located on the fourth floor. Where PACU (recovery room) was located, I never was certain, myself. Also, I don't know what the bed capacity of the hospital happened to be.

In many places throughout the hospital, there seemed to be a fairly strong antiseptic scent present.

These are but a few of my memories of the layout of St. Mary's Hospital. Chances are, if you ever worked there or visited frequently, you have many more recollections.

For me, this was simply one more glance back at the way things were a few years back.

- - -

Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by telephone at 626-1438 or by e-mail at rstealey@exponent-telegram.com