"It was a very, very strange sensation for him," Dr. Hilary O'Herlihy recalls of the first patient to visit North Arundel Hospital. "He came on the floor, and there was nobody else in the hospital. He just felt a little uneasy, but he got really good care, because everyone was hovering around him."
That first patient was a Westinghouse engineer who had suffered an acute heart attack. Wheeled onto the hospital's second floor -- the only one open in the three-story building --the man immediately was set upon by nurses, doctors and other staffers eager to put their skills to work finally.
They had been awaiting the moment for weeks. The building was like a furnace, stoked by the July heat. Only the artificial breeze of electric fans provided any relief as the doctors tended to the bewildered patient.
The man made a full recovery.
O'Herlihy, 60, who was named chief of medicine in that opening year, described July 4, 1965, with an amused smile. The events seem funny now. On that day 25 years ago, North Arundel opened its doors under trying circumstances. Those who were there remember it well.
"There was a transit strikeat that time, and part of our equipment was on the road between hereand somewhere," says 66-year-old Hazel Doegen, who was then a registered nurse at the hospital. "Our cafeteria furniture didn't arrive until, what, 11 o'clock the day we opened? -- so everybody had to stop and put that together so we could eat lunch."
The hospital experienced a difficult birth. Pieces of furniture, newly painted, were wrapped with newspapers -- which stuck to the finish. Staff members spenta good part of the day scraping them off.
Before beginning operations, North Arundel workers, including Chief Executive Officer AlfredJ. Bryan Jr., spent months uncrating boxes, setting up equipment, waxing floors and making up the 107 beds in the building, often workingwell past midnight.
The night before the opening, a pipe burst onthe first floor, flooding the radiology department and sending Bryanand other staff members scrambling.
"Needless to say, we all wentin with buckets and mops," Bryan recalled with a sigh. Now 67, he remains the hospital's CEO.
As difficult as it was, the people behind the hospital must have thought it was worthwhile. Administrators fought to get state money. In Annapolis, legislators said it was an unnecessary, redundant facility. Opponents cited the proximity of Baltimore hospitals and pointed to the existing Anne Arundel General Hospital in Annapolis, 16 miles down the road. Another medical center wasn't warranted, they said.
During the 1964 session, a piece of legislation approving money for building hospitals went before the General Assembly. The bill was amended to exclude any hospital opened after Jan. 1, 1965 from receiving state money.
"We had to get all of our people to go down there and get that taken out of the proposed law," O'Herlihy said.
After persistent lobbying, the legislation passed -- without the amendment. North Arundel had won one of many small victories.
From a hospital with one open floor and an emergency room that consisted of three small cubicles, North Arundel has expanded toa three-building, 329-bed, state-of-the-art medical facility. It treated 55,878 patients last year, admitting 14,561. Nine thousand inpatient and outpatient surgical operations were performed.
The hospital boasts a 40-bed coronary care unit, an intensive-care unit that can handle 12 patients and the county's only chemical dependency unit.
Beginning in the early 1970s, the second phase of the hospital, a six-floor building that added 222 beds, was opened floor by floor. The fifth and sixth floors were completed in 1974.
Walking through the bright second-floor of the newest building's intensive-care and coronary units, which opened last year, visitors pass rows of glass doors, each opening into single-bed rooms. Each room features a bed, window and the latest in Hewlett-Packard computer monitors, suspended from braces set into the ceiling. Each bed has a built-in weight scale, which can be checked through a keypad connected to the computer. The patient need never move.
The rooms are situated around the hub of the nurses' station, which glows with the monochrome illumination of the Hewlett-Packard screens that monitor each room. Nurses and doctors can check a patient's vital signs without entering his or her room. Each monitor is loaded with a cartridge containing diagnostic information and computer programs specifically tailored to each patient.
The effect is a lot like "Star Trek." Nurses peer at rows of screens, while the computers and sleek design of the units give a 21st-century look to the scene.
The $22 million, three-story building thathouses the high-tech units opened last July, coinciding almost exactly with the hospital's 25th anniversary. The structure contains the new lobby, enlarged radiology department and laboratory and administrative offices.
But no matter how modern the facilities, problems crop up any time you put a large number of people together in one building. North Arundel has 761 full-time staffers, 578 part-time and 170 supplemental employees.
In the early years, with about 40 medical personnel and 60 staff members, doctors were required to provide no-cost care in the hospital's emergency room. This didn't sit well with some doctors.
"That posed a few interesting problems for us duringthat period of time," Bryan recalled. "There were certain physiciansthat did not want to do it but did it, and their bedside manner wasn't always delightful."
The problem was alleviated when the hospital brought in medical students as interns, eager to get hands-on experience.
Doegen, who still works on a volunteer basis for the hospital, stressed that most of the doctors helped out gladly. She bristledat the suggestion that doctors today put in as much time to the community.
"Not like that. Back then they were really responsible," she told a younger staff member.
Among longtime staff, memories abound. There's the story of the first person treated in the emergency room, a man who lived three days with a pencil lead broken off in the palm of his hand, just so he could earn the distinction of being the first.
"A state license inspector came in to inspect us. We were inan elevator in the original building, and it decided to drop a floorand a half. From that time on until she left the health department, she would never ride the elevator," Bryan recalled with a smile.
The CEO feels vindicated for the early reticence of legislators by thesuccess and growth of the hospital. North Arundel has never operatedin the red, and Bryan sees an even bigger future for the hospital.
"We receive 42,000 to 44,000 patients a year in the emergency room.I think that we've proven that we are one of the lowest-cost hospitals in the state and have operated that way over the years."
North Arundel is looking into providing several new services to the county,including open-heart surgery, day care, a partnership with the University of Maryland to provide outpatient services for shock-trauma patients, a cardiac rehabilitation facility, home care and intensive outpatient services for drug and alcohol recovery.
"We've got quite awish list," Doegen said with a laugh.
NORTH ARUNDEL HOSPITAL
Opened: July 4, 1965.
Address: 301 Hospital Drive, Glen Burnie.
Number of beds: 329.
Services available: state-of-the-art intensive care and coronary care; cardiac catheterization; chemical dependency unit; ambulatory surgery; laser surgery; adult psychiatric unit; recently enlarged emergency department; state of the art laboratory and radiology; community health awareness program (free CPR classes, blood pressure screening, and health fairs); 15-bed pediatric unit; speakers bureau; outpatient programs (home care, occupational medical center, employee assistance program, complete cardiac rehabilitation program, home intravenous home therapy and a home medical equipment company).