Good Morning Doctor! - Chapter 26
When I came to Waverly there was no hospital there; in fact, there was none for miles around. What operating I didn't do in the homes of my patients I took to a residence hospital in Waterloo, an unhandy arrangement at best and one for which I could see no immediate solution. Yet the solution came unexpectedly and swiftly.
It happened like this:
There was a traveling man who was taken very ill at the hotel in Waverly and I was called to see him. I found he was suffering from acute appendicitis with abscess and needed immediate operation. The surroundings did not lend themselves to surgery. The private home in our town where two nurses sometimes had a few cases was temporarily closed. While I was looking for a place where the patient could be properly cared for I met Abraham Slimmer, an elderly and wealthy bachelor Jew, who lived in a fine, large house.
He was in the habit of taking in and caring for down-and-outers; so I told him about this sick man. And what do you want, a place in my house?" he asked.
"That would," I admitted, "be a great help."
"All right. When do you want to bring him and what can be do to get things ready for you?"
I told him we would need one of his well-lighted rooms, with the walls wiped down and the floor scrubbed, and a wash boiler of water boiled and cooled. When we arrived with the patient, Mr. Slimmer himself was busy scrubbing the floor; the other instructions had been perfectly carried out, and with the aid of a nurse the rest of the preparations were completed.
During the preliminaries Mr. Slimmer asked how I knew that this was a case of appendicitis and what made he think there was an abscess. So I answered that perhaps he would like to stay and watch the operation to see for himself. He would and he did.
We proceeded. We opened the abscess, removed the perforated sloughing appendix, and put in a drainage. But Mr. Slimmer, satisfied, retired from the room long before we were through.
After the patient had been put to bed, Mr. Slimmer, who seemed doubtful of the outcome of the operation, sent for the young man's wife. He made her his guest for three weeks until her husband fully recovered. And for all this, Mr. Slimmer refused to accept any remuneration either from the young man or from his wife.
When they were gone, Mr. Slimmer was inspired with idea. Why couldn't his home be used for a hospital some day? He had previously deeded the property to the county to be used after his death for an old people's home. But since the county home for the indigent had already been established and the county could not legally use the Slimmer house for this purpose, the authorities deeded it back to him. He, in turn, deeded it to the Catholic Sisters of Mercy, for a hospital. And that was how there came into being St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital of Waverly.
To the original house, an old limestone and brick structure, has been added enough through community donations, individual contributions, and funds from the Sisters of Mercy, to make a fifty-bed hospital. It eventually became one of the first standardized hospitals in the state of Iowa.
The generosity of Mr. Slimmer was not limited to the hospital or even to the city of Waverly. He gave so liberally to other hospitals and charitable institutions that before his death he had bestowed on others all of his worldly possessions which, in the aggregate, were more than a half million dollars.