1st patient at downtown Springfield hospital returns after 5 years

By Matt Sanctis - Staff Writer

After five years, Chris and Gretchen Zinkhon don’t remember every detail of their time at Springfield Regional Medical Center, where Gretchen and their newborn son were the hospital’s first patients.

The birth of the Zinkhons’ son Hayden, now 5 and in preschool, was their more obvious priority. One detail Chris won’t forget, though, was when his wife was first wheeled through the hospital’s main door and into the lobby. The hospital is celebrating its fifth anniversary downtown this year, and it brought the family back as part of the celebration. “I remember the ambulance ride, and as soon as we went through those doors, there were two floors of people staring and clapping,” Chris Zinkhon said.

Hayden was born on Nov. 12, 2011, at Community Mercy Health Partners’ former High Street campus, but the family was taken to the new downtown hospital to recover. Since then, the hospital has delivered more than 6,096 babies and admitted more than 73,460 patients, according to information from CMHP.

On Nov. 15, Hayden spent much of his return visit toying with the controls on a hospital bed, adjusting the foot and head positions until his body was nearly bent like a taco shell. “Kids have liked to do that ever since my 29-year-old was born,” joked Shirly Wise, a nurse educator who was working the night of the transition to the new hospital.

Wise and Pat Davis, nurse manager at the hospital, were both working the night Hayden was born. Both still remember running numerous drills in the weeks leading up to the transition, ensuring patient care would run smoothly on the night the hospital opened.

“Everyone had a very specific role to make it comfortable for patients and their families,” Davis said.

At the time, Chris and Gretchen said they didn’t think a lot about being the first patients to stay at the hospital, but said it was clear the staff cared about their family. Hayden also has three older sisters, so the family is familiar with spending time in a hospital.

After the initial surprise in the lobby and a quick photo, Chris said the hospital staff gave the family time to recover. “Everything else was pretty normal,” Chris said.