Carolyn Davidson Hicks

"My Family, A Journey Through Time"

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Mary Breckinridge Hospital where I was born

To tell the history of this facility we must start where it began. In June of 1928 the original Hyden Hospital was dedicated. The months prior were filled with adventure and exasperation as builders from far away came to do their part in the construction of the Hospital. The Hospital sits high atop the Thousandsticks Mountain overlooking the quaint little town of Hyden, Kentucky.

Its has often been asked of why Mrs. Breckinridge chose this site to build the Hospital. She said that there were many reasons why the Hospital was built to look over this little city, where it was quiet and peaceful, but the first reason was because there wasn’t a choice.

The stories that came from that quest were amazing. Fifteen mule teams were assembled to pull the cement and plaster from the Hazard railway and the tools weighed more than the equipment that was being installed. Many who were involved in the building came from Louisville and Cincinnati, cities that are many miles away from the mountains.

One story Mrs. Breckinridge wrote about in her autobiography “Wide Neighborhoods”: A gentleman who came to install the heating plant had left Hazard on the little mail cart with the mailman. He shared his story upon arrival: ” We jolted along for several miles and then the wagon gave out. The post boy and I got on the mules, with the first class mail, and then the mules gave out. We started to walk, and then I gave out”. The pride of the local men who worked on the Hospital was very evident in the beautiful hand-hewn buckeye mantels to the great rocks used for the hearthstones.

Many months and much toiling later the Hospital was complete. The dedication was to be held on a beautiful spring day. The concern was that the weather may be too hot for the guests. No one could have ever imagined that the heavens would open and the rain would fall in blinding torrents thus giving way to rivers flooding and roads being washed away.

Mrs. Breckinridge had invited Sir Leslie and Lady MacKenzie from Edinburgh, Scotland to be the honored guests. Lady MacKenzie represented the pioneer wives who had been a part of the journey that men had made years ago in founding Kentucky. The guests arrived the morning of the dedication but unfortunately some of their luggage did not. This was due to the rising river and the inability for the wagon to cross.

Mrs. Breckinridge reported this news to her guests and said all received it with good humor. Sir Leslie gave a very moving speech on the Hospital veranda where the stars and stripes proudly hung as a backdrop. Before the ceremonies began, the Perry County band played “My Old Kentucky Home”. Near the conclusion of Sir Leslie’s address he spoke these words “…In all reverence, I dedicate this Hospital to the service of this mountain people.

The act of dedication will have consequences beyond all imagination. It will evoke responses along the many hundreds miles of these mountain frontiers and among the millions of their people. The beacon lighted here today will find an answering flame wherever human hearts are touched with the same divine pity. Far in the future men and women, generation after generation, will arise to bless the name of the Frontier Nursing Service.” With those words the first 12-bed Hospital in the area was dedicated.

A few years later a generous gift allowed the hospital to expand to an 18 bed hospital and eight bassinets. In 1949 the hospital grew again to house 25 beds and 12 bassinets.

The Hyden Hospital has many astonishing feats to its reputation but most pale in comparison to September of 1930. The first tonsillectomy clinic was held at the Hyden Hospital. Dr. Kobart performed 151 operations in 2 days all but 19 were tonsillectomies. The children took great comfort in knowing once the procedure was over they could eat all the ice cream they wanted.

No matter the task at hand Mrs. Breckinridge was ready for the challenge and her vision for Frontier Nursing Service never dimmed. She was the driving force behind Frontier Nursing Service until her death in spring of 1965. In her room overlooking the beautiful landscape of Wendover, which she called the incarnation of her dream, she completed her journey and bid us adieu. It was decided shortly after her death that the memorial to her would be a new hospital.

Times have changed from the days when appendicitis was life threatening and you had to travel for hours to see the nurse.

Mrs. Breckinridge once said, “Those who will not change are destined to be left behind”.

With that in mind, in October of 1970, a groundbreaking ceremony was held and in 1975, a brand new, state of the art facility, the Mary Breckinridge Hospital was dedicated. The Hyden Hospital became home to the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing.

Today, the Mary Breckinridge Hospital continues to meet the challenges facing a small rural hospital. In September of 2003 the hospital became a Critical Access Hospital which provides basic services necessary to the community, maintains a low average length of stay and networks with other healthcare providers to ensure that the healthcare needs of the community are met.

Mary Breckinridge Hospital offers a fully equipped emergency room, inpatient services, state of art diagnostic and ancillary services, and houses the Wasson Rural Health Clinic. The hospital employees over one hundred from the local community making it the second largest employer in Leslie County.

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Carolyn


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