Ingalls marks 90-year anniversary

2013-12-15T06:00:00Z 2013-12-17T09:56:05Z Ingalls marks 90-year anniversaryVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

HARVEY | It's been 90 years since a two-story brick building rose up from prairie grasses to serve the health needs of people in Chicago's south suburbs.

Named after its founder Frederick Ingalls, Ingalls Memorial Hospital marked its anniversary last month with a celebration and cake with the first baby born there, 90-year-old Jeannette Landowski.

"Essentially, our role has not changed," said Kurt Johnson, hospital president and CEO. "We exist to meet the diverse needs of the south suburban area."

The landscape has changed.

"The only notoriety this region had was that it was a major cattle drive route to the Chicago stockyards," Johnson said.

In the early 1900s, Illinois extended its railroad south, erecting a loading platform every mile or so.

"One was located less than a mile northeast of us," he said.

Johnson speculated entrepreneurs must have been standing on that platform, looking into the prairies and envisioning development. They started small steel- and auto-related businesses nearby.

Frederick Ingalls, a northsider, started a small company and was interested in providing health care for his employees, Johnson said.

He gathered some cheap parcels of land and, through fundraising, commissioned the building of the hospital. No federal or state dollars were used to build it, Johnson said.

The building opened Nov. 4, 1923. Old admissions logs show there were work injuries, births and people suffering from viruses and pneumonia.

The hospital expanded over time, adding floors and services, bringing it to today's 563-bed size.

The '80s brought the concept of outpatient medical campuses. Most health care is ambulatory, and opening these centers met that community need, Johnson said.

Johnson has worked at Ingalls for 26 years.

"What makes Ingalls unique is the large number of individual doctors and nurses that view Ingalls as their home," he said.

Patti Schassburger, a 38-year employee, is one of them.

"I feel like it's a second home to me," she said. "I spent so much of my life here."

Schassburger started June 30, 1975.

"I was a new graduate back then and I started at $5 an hour," she said.

A couple of months later, she passed the state board exam and became a registered nurse, which bumped her hourly pay to $5.25.

The Glenwood woman started on a surgical floor in the days when nurses wore all white outfits, white hats and nursing pins. She transferred to the labor and delivery department after having a baby and being impressed with the nurses there.

"I feel like this is where I was meant to be," she said.

Now, she works as assistant manager of labor and delivery and the special care nursery.

Over nearly four decades, she has seen medical changes and advances.

"Back then, we had three delivery rooms," she said. "The rest were labor rooms. We had a fathers waiting room, because the fathers weren't allowed to be in with their wives."

Now, the hospital has 22 labor, delivery, recovery and post-partum rooms.

"Moms deliver right in the same room where they're admitted," she said. "We bring the equipment to them."

Schassburger remembers when the hospital had its own nursing school. And the ladies in the cafeteria used to make homemade delicious food. And she recalls long, hot days before the floors were air conditioned.

"We'd have the windows open," she said.

She can't believe how quickly time has passed.

"It's grown so much now," she said. "This place is huge compared to what it used to be. I'm so happy that Ingalls is still going strong."

As part of its 90th anniversary celebration, the hospital plans to build an atrium off the main lobby to display its historic artifacts, Johnson said.

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