Transition to the New

Reader Contribution by Mary Carton
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Recently, I’ve been hearing transition mentioned for passing away.  Transition is a foreign term for me as far as someone dying.  Some of the sayings I grew with were:  passed, passed away,  went to meet their maker or Lord, kicked the bucket, the good die young, Bless his/her heart, I guess it was just his/her time, bought the farm, bite the dust, belly up, at peace,  cashed in their chips, croaked, counting worms, dead as a door nail, dead as a dodo, curtains, crossed the Jordan, died with his boots on, dropped dead, give up the ghost, has gone to a better place, gone to the big place in the sky, met their maker, take a last bow, swim with concrete shoes, turn up one’s toes, to join the whisperers, up and died, wearing a pine overcoat, pushing up daises, take the last train to glory, one’s hour has come, shuffle off this mortal coil, and take a last bow.  For pets, it was going over the rainbow bridge.


One thing a lot of folks don’t consider is the photo that your relatives will use on the on-line obituary that then gets printed in the newspapers for all eternity.  I still remember one particular photo of a gentleman standing in front of a closet.  A hanger is behind him on the door.  In the photograph, it looked like the hanger is coming out of both ears.   Pick out a picture and send it to your relatives.  Those in mourning may not make good choices when stressed.

Thursday December 6, 2018 marked the end of my place that I’ve worked at the last 43 years, Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital or ECM as most folks call it in the Shoals area of NW Alabama.  As the area grew, the hospital was put together piece mill in sections starting in the late forties to fifties.  Each addition had different government regulations to the point the newest section had floors taller than those in the original building.  By the time you got to the third floor, there was about a twelve-foot difference if floor heights.  You had a long flight of stairs to climb from the old to the new side.  She was replaced by a new state of the art facility overlooking the Tennessee River in Florence, and given a new name of North Alabama Medical Center (NAMC).  I retired full time, and went part time in September of 2017.  I normally work Thursday’s on dictionary builds in our computer system for resulting the tests in the laboratory.   I took the day off to roam around taking pictures of the move starting at 6 a.m.  Twenty ambulances were pulled in from west Tennessee and east Mississippi to help Shoals ambulance with the move.  Two Anchor buses helped moved patients who were ambulatory.  The move was expected to take twelve hours.  I took pictures of the first ambulance loading at ECM and arriving at NAMC.  I went back to ECM, and documented the closing down of ECM.  I did get a little teary eyed when Kenny, one of our maintenance guys was painting over the ECM signs by the emergency room entrance, and some of the bigger signs being taken down.  At 1 p.m., all 137 patients, of which twenty-eight were critical care, were gone from ECM.  The old gal was no longer after 99 years. 

After posting some of the pictures and commenting that I’ll have trouble with turning left after crossing O’Neal instead of going right, one friend commented “thanks for sharing, I feel like we were all there for the transition.”

Other comments were: “Mary Carton I’d be like you—I would always turn left coming up Court Street from the bridge!!! I used to cross the bridge every day to get home; but I didn’t remember it!!! I miss all my good friend from the old hospital, many who have now passed on to glory!!”

“So glad to see your memories! It was a healing place, a happy place along with sadness. Many souls came and many left there. It’s hallowed ground!”

“So many happy times with babies being born. Sad times when family and friends were sick and happy times when they were healed and got to go home. I had my tonsils out here as a child. My oldest brother had to be shocked back into the land of the living several times here (and is still living). My great-grandmother and my father-in-law passed away at this location. Amazing impact on the community, families, and individuals over the years.”

“Twenty-eight years went by fast.  My car automatically went to ECM.”

“My 3 were born there.  I remember as a child in the 40’s driving by at night & seeing all the iron lungs when there were polio epidemics…and some people don’t want to immunize their children. “ 

I responded that I did get to see a iron lung in operation.  A man took a shotgun to his wife, and the hospital borrowed the iron lung from the TVA museum. 

“She was a fine “Lady” who served us well!

“Hate to see torn down, I spent approximately 34 years there.”

“My oldest and youngest was born there.”

“I spent about 21 years there!

“Sad to see it go. My brothers, me, my cousins were all born there. Life goes on. It has served its purpose well.

“ECM I’m going to love you forever. Thank you for being there for me!!  Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for your care when I was at deaths door and in ICU 81 days and 43 days on 2nd West back in 1983. I spent months with you then.  I will remember you forever! What an emotional day today is.”  This happened when she was eighteen.  She and three friends were in a VW beetle when hit by a young man celebrating getting his driver’s license.  She received over 120 units blood during those four months.  After she was moved to 2nd West she became very hard to obtain a blood sample from.  I was asked to go up and try to get a sample.  It took one stick.  As I was drawing the sample, she said “see prayers work, I prayed that you would get it on the first stick, and you did.”  I got teary eyed with that.  Later she became an RN, and now her daughter is one at ECM, rather NAMC.

There were several more comments as to the closeness of the employees.  Back then employees tended to stay at one place a lot longer than they do now.  Winter storms were more fun.  A command center would be set up, and the Alabama National Guard would help get employees to the hospital.  Bill Robshaw would drive an old ambulance from the Korean War era, like the ones in the TV show MASH to pick employees up.  He would have fun terrorizing his passengers with his driving and sliding around curves.  Now days, employees are expected to get to work.

A new hospital was greatly needed, but the old name Eliza Coffee Memorial has transitioned into extinction as the first ambulance arrives at North Alabama Medical Center.   The hospital has gone to a better place.

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