CPGH marks 30th year with gathering of 'babies'

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2001

Thirty years ago, on June 21, Central Peninsula General Hospital opened its doors, admitted its first patient and delivered its first baby -- Dustin Lee Poole.

Last Thursday, Poole and others gathered on the lawn outside the hospital for a reunion of all the babies ever born at CPGH. In all, since 1971, 13,667 babies have been delivered at the hospital.

Not all 13,667 were there, but many families took part in the celebration. At least 50 people stood squinting at the sun as they posed for the picture that kicked off the afternoon's events.

'Babies' of all ages joined in the picture. Expectant mothers, toddlers, teens, adults, parents and even grandparents holding their grandchildren waited patiently for the photographer to snap the pictures. Some waited not so patiently as toddlers crawled across the lawn and babies wailed.

The first baby born at CPGH was in the picture as well as his wife and two sons, who were also delivered in Soldotna. The first set of triplets delivered by Dr. Anderson was in the crowd, as was former Miss Alaska Jocelyn Tinker. The reunion-goers also included a baby who was delivered just a week before the event.

Besides Poole, another CPGH baby celebrated his birthday on the 21. Instead of 30, he turned 9.

"It's his birthday, I thought, what the heck, I don't have to throw a party, the hospital is," said his mother Lyn Eastlick of Kenai.

Beth McDonald and Jennifer Waters accompanied Eastlick to the picnic. Both women gave birth to all of their children at CPGH. Together, their six children range from 9 years to 4 months old.

"My daughter got a big kick out of telling me that the hospital was built the year after I was born," McDonald said.

She appreciated the atmosphere and the staff of the maternity ward at CPGH on all of her visits.

"The maternity ward is my favorite one," she said. "The nurses are just great, they really are. You can't do it without them."

The celebration was truly generational. Rhonda Price works in administration at the hospital, and all three of her children were born there. Jan Fenton, another hospital employee in the surgery department, brought her children to the celebration to socialize and for the food.

She, too, had favorable things to say about the maternity ward at the hospital.

"They've changed the birthing and delivery rooms, it's a beautiful, wonderful environment now," she said.

Thirty years ago, the hospital was opened as a result of community effort. Thursday, CPGH celebrated its anniversary with the community it serves.

"It is a community hospital. It is their hospital and their services," said Bonnie Nichols, director of marketing and public relations at CPGH.

The number of babies delivered at CPGH is far more than the population of Kenai and Soldotna combined. Therefore, chances are, everyone knows someone born at Central Peninsula General Hospi-tal.

"It's a really neat thing they are doing this," said Casey Poole, wife of Dustin Poole, the first baby born at CPGH.

Nichols agreed.

"Its fun to be celebrating on the solstice, the longest day of the year. It is a nice thing for our employees to take a break and go outside to enjoy some barbecue," Nichols said. "It's a combination thing for the night staff and the docs."

The first 100 kids who showed up at the celebration received a T-shirt printed with the lettering: "1971-2001: A health odyssey." Everyone got buttons that read "I was born at CPGH."

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