On July 10, 1966 a swimming accident would change my life forever. Approximately 6 weeks later I would be transferred from the Lancaster Regional Hospital, at that time known as St. Joseph’s Hospital, Lancaster Pennsylvania to the Elizabethtown Crippled Childrens Hospital. The Elizabethtown CC Hospital is now home to The Department of Corrections as a Training Academy. With a very kind invitation of an employee working at the facility, on June 2013, I was invited for a tour.
Needless to say I accepted the invitation.
The layout of the first/main floor looks much as it was in 1966. All four Wards, 14 and 16 once housing up to 40 teenage boys and Wards 13 and 15 (teenage girls) are now classrooms. In the 1960s the interior of the facility offered an institutional look, walls painted the same, there was an absence of pictures on the walls, the smell of medicine mixed with Lysol presented a clean and sanitary, but institutional environment. Today, that is changed. The first, second and third floors have bright colorful paint adorning the walls, pictures, awards and other items are everywhere. A trip to the fourth floor is a trip back in time. It is still used as storage, the institutional color paint. still the same. I did however find one-room that freaked me out. Anyone that spent time on wards 14 and 16 probably remember the two small rooms in the nurses area used for isolation. Looking into that 8′ x 10′ room is where I spent nine months in 1967 because of staph infection. It gave me the creeps!. It does however, give a very small insight of the confinement prisoners of war must have felt in the days of Vietnam. In my opinion, the only good thing to come out of the Vietnam War was the research by our government to aid the paraplegic and quadriplegic soldiers returning from battle.
More than three years ago I developed a simple web site about the hospital. The original web site was an experimentation of sorts. I was curious if there were others such as myself that would like to reconnect with friends made during their stay at the hospital and what those friends accomplished in life. As it turns out almost 100 people responded.
Anyone admitted to the hospital during the 1960s probably remember one person, Terry Gates. Terry had been admitted during his first years of life and was 18 when I was discharged and was quite a character. In my 2 1/2 years at the hospital I remember Terry receiving few visitors, possibly three to five. Some patients were admitted and forgotten about by their families, never receiving visitors. Visiting hours in the 1960s, Saturday and Sundays 1:00-4:00 p.m. This was not much time, but imagine early years visiting hours were 1:00-4:00 p.m., once a month.
Sometimes you find it is a small world. I always wondered what happened to Terry and I found out in a surprising way. Because I am a quadriplegic I need help transferring from my bed to the wheelchair and wheelchair to bed. One of the attendants I hired, in years past, lived in the the Pittsburgh area. Everyone knew Terry likes two things, Hank Williams Sr. and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Terry would break the rules countless times by listening to the “Buc’s” after lights out, but most nurses would overlook that rule. I told my attendant many stories about Terry and one evening he ask a question about Terry and his answer was quite a shock. While my attendant lived in the Pittsburgh area (Buc’s hometown), he worked in a legal office. As we continued to talk it became apparent that Terry had worked in the same office. Unfortunately, he knew that Terry had passed away.
Many conversation would be about other former patients, which had been former friends, so I decided to place the original web site. Now, a little older and a little wiser, I am replacing the old web site with this new WordPress site. Technology has advanced very quickly and much more can be done with this new technology.
The “Mission and Vision” that developed this web site concerns others still living. With this site, both patient and staff, will be able to post and hopefully reconnect with someone that made an impression in their life. This web site is just a start and will probably evolve over the next few years.
Hopefully this will accomplish a reconnect. The site should allow people to tell short stories about their time at Elizabethtown Crippled Children’s Hospital, but also offer a format allowing people to post a blog about their life. My blog will be the first and I may permit some liberties that I may offer others, but then again I am the author and the web site is hosted on my dime.
My 2 1/2 years spent at Elizabethtown helped mold me into
the person I am today and I thank God that my life was spared.
I hope that you will find this web site informative and useful.
Glenn Henry (Elizabethtown 1966-1969)