In 1949 five young mothers see a need for a “hospital for children only” in the San Joaquin Valley. Together with other civic-minded women, the founding mothers establish a “guild” system to rally the community and raise essential funds. The Guilds successfully garner support to build the only pediatric hospital in Central California. In the fall of 1952, Dr. Loren Chandler, former Fresnan and dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, speaks at the much-anticipated dedication ceremony. The doors swing open to welcome dignitaries and visitors to see the hospital they helped build.
Children’s Hospital treats our first patient, 10 year old Myrna Louise Uridge, shortly after opening our doors. Myrna comes with a stomachache and leaves without her appendix. Less than a year later, Douglas Robert Stewart, also 10, and also complaining of a stomachache, becomes patient number 1000.
Chief of Staff Dr. Mervyn Schwartz announces in 1961 that a 102-bed expansion is necessary to meet the growing demand for services. Our 25,000th patient, Ruben Lerna, 7, is admitted with the same symptoms as our first and 1000th patients. Ruben complains of a stomachache, reminding us that some things about kids don’t change.
A new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for premature babies opens in the 1970s, followed by a “preemie transport system.” The specially equipped van travels throughout the Valley, transporting critically ill newborns from outlying hospitals. Nine babies are admitted within the first 10 days of operation. The first “bloodless” open-heart surgery is performed in 1974 and our 24-hour emergency room opens in 1975. By the late 1970s the “A.M. Admissions” unit opens so that children may come to the Hospital for outpatient surgery and return home the same day.
Children’s holds our first NICU reunion picnic in the early 1980s. The parents of Ryan Fitzpatrick, born at only 1 pound, 2 ounces, share their story of a little boy who might not have lived without our NICU. In 1985, 25 members of the Kids N Cancer group return from a weeklong trip to Camp Rainbow and Dreams, which evolves into the popular Camp Sunshine Dreams. The annual event gives kids with cancer and their siblings a chance to spend a week away at camp, just like everyone else.
In the 1990s, planning and building the Madera campus stretches over the decade, and at one minute past midnight on Aug. 31, 1998, Children’s makes the move to a new, state-of-the-art facility. Nine-day-old NICU patient Katrina Yang is the first to move. Myrna Uridge Carey, the first patient from the old building, rides along with Katrina in the ambulance. During the move, the first new patient is admitted when 16-year-old Jason Brown comes to the emergency room during an asthma attack. Fifteen hours after Katrina and Myrna lead the way, the old hospital stands empty for the first time in 46 years.
The Magnet Recognition Program ® of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) recognizes Children’s Hospital for quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice with designations in 2004 and 2008. Children’s is the first pediatric hospital west of the Rockies to receive Magnet® designation and remains in the elite group of less than 7 percent of hospitals nationwide into the next decade.
Sixty years after five young mothers dreamed of building a hospital for children only, Children’s Hospital provides incredible care to kids like Victor through the compassionate hands of amazing people like Dr. Witt . This level of care is available because our founding mothers believed the community to receive the benefits of a dedicated pediatric hospital should also be the source of its financial support, and this generous community continues to contribute essential support to this day.