Friday, June 16, 2023

“Good bye” and “thank you” to the Lockport Hospital


During the first weekend of May in 1999 I had severe abdominal pain and chalked it up to food poisoning and gluttony from eating a whole pizza. I fought through it best I could – I moved into my home and played some softball that weekend, saying I wouldn’t let pain and bad food ruin my weekend.


Over the course of those two days it got much worse and, without my knowing, my appendix exploded. Only after the poisons made their way through my body did I go to the ER. By then, it had caused potentially-fatal peritonitis. I needed emergency surgery and spent a week in hospital followed by weeks of recovery.


Now, every morning when I look in the mirror and see the large scar that travels vertically across my stomach I count my blessings. I was likely hours away from kicking the bucket but I was fortunate that Lockport Memorial Hospital and its people were there to work their magic. The wonderful doctors, nurses, and aides made sure my stay was helpful, hopeful, and comfortable.


I’m forever indebted to those good people and the Hospital for saving my life.


I am also thankful to them for saving my son Warren’s life.


He was born there, five weeks ahead of schedule. But, premies being premies, and boy ones being especially troublesome, it wasn’t an easy birth. He struggled to breathe, badly. What was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life was stressful beyond belief as I watched the medical team urgently work on Warren as his chest heaved to get air. Despite the high level of stress for me and those attending to him, they skillfully and lovingly kept him going until an ambulance whisked him away to Buffalo’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital.


Warren is six years old now, in perfect health, and an incredibly bright and cheery boy. I think the kid is going to go on to do big things, a domino effect made possible by those incredible people at Lockport.


Events like these will be no more in the Lock City. It’s incredibly sad that the enterprise which created memories and provided first and second chances at life for literally hundreds of thousands of patients has become but a memory itself with the Saturday closing of Eastern Niagara Hospital after 115 years of serving the Niagara Frontier.


But, as much as I dislike that what it once was is being replaced by triage and general healthcare rather than the wide range of critical services that we all knew, I know it’s a necessary move that reflects the reality of the world we live in.


If you’ve read this column for any length of time you know I fret quite often about the ongoing decline of Upstate New York’s economy, population, and demographics. Not only is it something that keeps me up at night running a factory, it also dominates my thoughts while serving boy scouts and college students. At all of those organizations, just like the hospital, we’ve instituted major changes to meet the changing demographics and we often ponder long-term options if the decline of the region continues or happens at a rate even greater than what it has.


That’s the same mess that ENH has faced. Fewer area residents equal fewer patients which equals fewer revenues. On top of that, there’s the “use it or lose it” syndrome: In the lead-up to the closing of the maternity ward a few years ago, 65% of area women from a population of potential child bearers that was 24% lower than it was 20 years earlier chose facilities other than Lockport to deliver.


So, I get it.


But, that doesn’t make the loss of the hospital any easier.


It hurts.


And, I doubt any of this talk of socioeconomics is comforting to those who need or have used ENH’s services or those who worked their tails off – and shed a lot of tears, happy and sad  -- to provide them.


I will forever remember and cherish that building and the wonderful people who roamed the halls – true angels on Earth. The hospital’s teams helped me and my family navigate times that were happy and scary. Eastern Niagara Hospital, Lockport Memorial, whatever you want to call it, saved my life. It saved Warren’s life. It likely saved the life of someone close to you.


I say “good bye” to a community institution that served generations and “thank you” to the men and women who changed lives and saved lives.


We’ll always love you as much as you loved us.




From the 20 June 2023 Greater Niagara Newspapers, Batavia Daily News, and Wellsville Sun

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