At least once a week, I’ve driven by the site in downtown Belleville and measured the progress of demolition.
What was once the home of the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville is becoming piles of bricks, concrete and dust.
I am sure there are many, many others, like me, who have personal memories of the hospital. Births. Deaths. Jobs. Visits. In my life, three significant events come to mind whenever I drive by the site:
Tuesday, July 14, 1959
I was supposed to be a girl. This was well before gender reveal parties. With two sons, Mom had a girl named picked out for me but I threw her the first of many, many curve balls. Mom and Dad scrambled and named me after Dad’s favorite childhood ballplayer, Terry Moore.
I’m glad Dad’s favorite ballplayer wasn’t Solly Hemus or Chick King.
Why was an East St. Louis kid born at the new, downtown Belleville hospital?
“The nuns’ hospital up the hill,” as my Grandpa Bob called it. The hospital building was only five years old that summer of 1959.
I assume it was Mom’s doctor who made that call. Over the years, I remember Mom often saying how she had wanted to stay in the hospital for another week to enjoy the quality care, peace and quiet. She knew it would be crazy at home with three boys. My two brothers were ages 4 and 6 when I was born.
Saturday, January 1, 1994
Mom died at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. She was in poor health, with lung and respiratory illness. In the end, the flu got her.
That morning, the nurses, nuns and chaplains offered condolences. They were kind but I just wanted to be left alone. When leaving the hospital, in the front lobby, I remember passing a young mom in a wheelchair with her newborn baby, headed home. She was waiting for her ride home by the front doors. When I got to my car, it had a flat tire, which I fixed quickly.
It was a cold New Year’s Day. A really bad start to a new year.
Friday, December 9, 2016
I was at Tavern on Main in downtown Belleville. It was a Friday night. There were holiday parties in the backroom.
That’s all I remember. I got sick. Dizzy. Nauseous. My wife Colleen insisted that I go to the hospital. She had seen me sick a few times. This was different, she said. She was right.
My friends and family loaded me up in a car and we went to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, just a few blocks away. The emergency room staff and doctors knew I needed immediate care. I was put on a helicopter and transported to a St. Louis hospital. I don’t remember the helicopter ride.
Count my blessings. I am a lucky man that the old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital was located so close to us that Friday night.
Life moves on. Old buildings are torn down. New buildings erected. Cities change. People change. Move. Progress. Regress. Repeat.
The old St. Elizabeth’s Hospital building in Belleville is gone. But years from now, some of us will always see the “nuns’ hospital up the hill” on South Third Street, across from the Cathedral.
And we’ll recall our stories of when lives started, ended, and were saved there.