In a letter written to Fairfield Memorial Hospital in August of 2004, a former staff nurse who was part of the hospital’s opening in January of 1955, recapped some highlights of the hospital’s earliest days.
“The hospital staff started to work in December of 1954 to get the hospital ready for patients,” Alyce B. Smith wrote in her letter marking the 50thanniversary of the hospital. “We made beds, set up the delivery room and surgery. The kitchen staff ordered supplies and set up the dietary department.
“At that time we were known as the most modern little hospital in South Carolina,” she wrote. “We were then known as Fairfield County Memorial Hospital. Later “County” was later dropped.
“We had a resuscitation machine in the delivery room that saved many infants’ lives, also (had) an isolation room with ultraviolet lights thought to kill bacteria and viruses.
She wrote that there was “a large autoclave and all the formula supplies” to keep equipment sterile and to mix formula for babies. “Back then we dressed in cap, mask, gown and had sterile packs containing cloth supplies. We had no disposable sterile packs. Everything was autoclaved. We boiled our syringes and needles. We had to sharpen our needles too.
“CPR was unheard of. There were no living wills. When death was imminent, we tried to make the patient as comfortable as possible.”
Smith wrote than Mr. Al Woodring was the first hospital administrator. “I think, as always, a new hospital has many problems – staffing, discipline, and other challenges.
“The food served to employees was free – three meals a day, if desired,” she wrote. “Uniforms were stiffly starched and were laundered by the hospital. Our shoes were clean and shined – no dirty shoes back then.
“Ambulance service was unheard of. Patients were transported to Columbia area hospitals by the local funeral homes. The emergency room was staffed by rotating the medical staff. We did not have a pharmacy. The nurses supplied and passed out medication from a drug room located behind the present day nurses station.
Smith recalled the “first patient was an OB patient. We had a huge delivery census as most mothers came to our hospital for delivery.”
(Editor’s Note: Alyce retired in 1996 after 42 years with the hospital. She and her husband, Marion, are now living in Charleston.)