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Dr. Bill Hamilton discusses starting the Special Care Nursery in Carbondale

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Dr. Bill Hamilton knows how hard it is to treat a tiny or premature infant without having a place to take care of that baby. 

“We moved to Carbondale in 1969. My first two patients were preemies who were born in Holden Hospital,” Hamilton said.

The babies were put in incubators, but both of them died.

“We needed to do something to take care of preemies,” Hamilton said.

When Holden Hospital closed and everything moved to Memorial Hospital, they had a nursery. That meant it was possible to specialize a part of that nursery to care for premature infants.

Hamilton had experience taking care of small babies during his service in the Navy.

A couple of colleagues also helped during the early days. Dr. Sidney Smith and Dr. Paul Lorenz took calls and enlisted the help of a couple of doctors and nurses in Jane Hamlin and Nicki Nance.

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“We went to Denver to see how their nursery operated, and they had no patients,” Hamilton said.

Nurses in Springfield taught them how to administer an umbilical IV.

They opened the first level 2 Special Care Nursery in Illinois. Hamilton said the hospital administrator George Maroney supported the nursery.

Obstetricians knew there were people trained to take care of premature infants. Babies were transferred from other hospitals to the nursery.

“The Elks were good at fundraising, and they supplied us with most of the equipment we needed,” Hamilton said.

Residents came through and learned to care for premature infants.

Hamilton said they recruited Dr. Bill Stratton, who was a neonatologist, and Dr. Rudy Frey. Cheryl Arnett, a registered nurse, went on for specialized training.

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Hamilton worked in the nursery until around 1988 to 1990. He continued to practice in pediatrics until 1985 when he went to the nursery full-time.

“One of the things I miss in retirement is the interaction with babies and their parents,” Hamilton said.

He said delivering a premature or pre-term baby is hard. Parents expect to go home with a healthy baby. It’s very hard to be discharged and unable to take a baby home.

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He also said building the special care nursery would not have been possible without the support of his wife.

“I think the most important thing is that the facility is in Carbondale. Carbondale is the only place in the area that still delivers babies, and they have the backup help to care for issues that they have,” Hamilton said. “It’s a good thing. I’m glad to see it here.”

He is also glad the reunion is planned along with a fundraiser.

The 5K run-walk will begin at 9 a.m., followed by the reunion and lunch at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at Cannon Park in Carterville.

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