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Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital

By:  B. Don Zesch

I graduated from Tivy High School, on Tivy Street, Kerrville, Texas, in May 1948. That summer they were opening the new Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital on the corner of Water Street and Sidney Baker. I was hired to help move things from the old hospital on the northwest corner of Main Street and Sidney Baker to the new hospital.



They gave me a new Chevrolet pickup to move items to the new hospital. Driving a new pickup was a great thrill for an 18 year old boy. The Peterson brothers also owned a dealership that sold all makes of General Motors vehicles.   After all of the items that they wanted from the old hospital and all the new equipment was unpacked, the hospital opened. 

The first floor of the hospital was a tire store and gas filling station. Cars would drive into this area which was covered. While the attendant filled the car with gas, checked the tire pressure and the water and oil levels,  a flexible six inch duct was secured on the car window to blow cool, air-conditioned air into the car.

After the move, I continued working at the hospital as an Orderly which was a “general flunkey,” since I worked all over the hospital doing most anything. This included giving injections to operating the elevator. Elevators then were not self-service they had to have an operator.

It was an incredible learning experience and I was exposed to many new things.   It helped prepare me for my career in Physical Therapy.

Much of my time was spent in Central Supply which supplied sterile goods and other items to the hospital. At this time there were no disposables, everything was cleaned, autoclaved and reused, needles, syringes, gloves, catheters, nasogastric tubes, masks, gowns, surgical linen, lap sponges everything except 2X2 and 4X4 sponges (gauze dressings). The gauze dressings came in paper packages unsterile. They were opened, placed in stainless cans with lids and autoclaved. The lids were slightly open during autoclaving. When they were needed a set of forceps, kept in a holder with Zephrin chloride solution, were used to remove the sponges from the cans. Also masks and other items kept in sterile cans were removed with the forceps. We made up packs of linen for various types of surgery and baby delivery including the braided tape to tie the umbilical cord and autoclaved them.

Needles were cleaned, flushed with ether and checked with cotton for burrs. If burrs were found they were sharpened on a whet rock. The plunger and barrel numbers of the glass syringes had to match for them to fit. The latex gloves had to be washed in green liquid soap, rinsed, hung up to dry, turned to dry, tested for holes, powdered, put in individual muslin folders by size and autoclaved.  

I also worked in the operating rooms. The operating rooms had windows covered with venetian blinds I had to clean regularly.

In addition to the cleaning, I assisted the circulation nurse by opening and handing sterile items to the scrub nurse and doctor. During prostate surgery (TURP) I had to keep a large glass flask filled with sterile water. I used a stainless steel pitcher with a hand towel pinned over the top, that had been autoclaved, to transport the water from the water sterilizer built into the wall to the flask. The water is used to flush out the prostate tissue that is being removed.

Early one morning they brought a woman that had been burned to the Emergency Room. She lived on a ranch near Medina. Unknown to the family there was a propane leak. Unlike natural gas, propane is heavier than air. The propane collected under the house and eventually exploded. All of her body was burned to one degree or another. Since her face was burned, my job was to hold the oxygen mask close to her face as it could not be strapped on. She was conscious as the doctors and nurses removed the dead tissue and applied bandages. I would also drop small pieces of ice between her charred lips. She was in the Emergency Room most of the morning. After the bandaging was completed she was transferred to a room on the floor. There were no Intensive Care Units (ICU).  She died a short while later. It was an experience I shall never forget.

Once I held the patient’s leg up while the orthopedic surgeon drove a steel medullary rod up his femur with a hammer.   I also counted the lap sponges to be sure none were left in the patient.   Even though I was not formally trained I catheterized and gave intramuscular injections to patients. 
I prepped patients for surgery including shaving and sterilizing the skin.   Once a patient needed a blood transfusion and I gave him my blood.

These are some of my memories of the Sid Peterson Memorial Hospital on Sidney Baker Street in Kerrville in those early days when it first opened.

B. Don Zesch
© September 2009

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