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No. Conway hospital's time capsule contents may be history 100 years from now

Union Leader Correspondent

May 21. 2012 11:25PM
Friends and staff of Memorial Hospital prepare to bury the time capsule on the grounds of the North Conway health facility. The capsule is due to be opened in 2112. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX PHOTO)

NORTH CONWAY - In 2112, when Memorial Hospital officials dig up the lawn on the southern side of the facilities' medical offices, they'll be pulling up a time capsule put into the earth this year.

Will they know what the extra large back brace was for or the ink jet cartridge? Will they try out the 100-year-old award-winning chili recipe from Glenn White, assistant director of nutritional services at Memorial? And will the chronic disease management pamphlet still be relevant to them, or will those diseases, like diabetes, be curable?

Those are just a few of the items contained in the capsule at a dedication ceremony Friday. The capsule, made by Hunting Dearborn of metal alloys and stainless steel, holds over 70 items and was made possible donations from individuals and businesses.

Sanders Kurtz, a member of the committee that worked on the project, said the capsule will be registered with a national organization that keeps track of time capsules.

The dedication of the capsule was the culmination of a year-long celebration of the hospital's first 100 years.

The hospital has humble beginnings, a reminder of which can be seen in the white clapboard building that fronts Route 16.

The core of that building was the original hospital, built at a time when doctors in rural areas routinely preformed tonsillectomies on an operating table in their own homes or, in some cases, the kitchen table in the patient's home.

Local physicians George H. Shedd and John Z. Shedd championed the idea of a hospital in the early 1900s, enlisting the support of Helen Bigelow Merriman, daughter of Erastus Bigelow, founder of the Bigelow Carpet Co. Merriman's father had left money in honor of his wife to be used for the welfare of the people of the area.

Partnering with the Shedds, Merriman donated land and money from her mother's bequest, and Memorial Hospital was built.

The hospital, which first got an X-ray machine in the 1922, now boasts of state-of-the art equipment, including a hyperbaric chamber for advanced wound care.

A century from now, that chamber may seem as quaint but as useful as the X-ray machines are to us today.

State Rep. Karen Umberger, in her remarks, painted a bucolic scene of the valley's past before drawing a picture of the future of medical care at the hospital.

In 2112 the heliport, she said, will no longer be used for medevac trips, because Memorial will be able to all care in-house.

Instead, she continued, the spot will be used as a landing site for flying cars.

Umberger even predicted that some in the audience would still be alive in 2112, due to increases in longevity.

Dr. Robert Tilney, a surgeon, has worked at the hospital for 30 of its 100 years, and spoke about the doctors he's known through the years and those he had heard about when he arrived in 1981, mentioning several who at the time still went out on house calls long after the practice had become uncommon.

Times have changed since 1911, when patients were charged $1.50 a day. Gene Bergoffen, chairman of the trustees, said the hospital has been very well managed but pressures on the bottom line continue to grow.

He said the hospital needs to be flexible and nimble to adapt to this change.

The hospital temporally closed from May 1920 to April 1921, due to a deficit. It reopened, and in 1937 the first addition was built.

Health North Conway Photo Feature

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