A Hospital’s History

You may know Edward Hospital as a full service, nationally-recognized hospital helping hundreds of patients a day. The institute was re-designated earlier this year as a Magnet hospital for its nursing excellence, an honor awarded to less than 2% of our nation’s hospitals. But when the facility first opened in 1907 it wasn’t a hospital at all, it was a tuberculosis sanitarium.

55 years ago a group of Naperville residents came together and helped transform that sanitarium into the hospital you see today. One of the last remaining members of that group is Dr. Robert Reschke.

When Dr. Reschke moved to Naperville in 1954, Edward Sanitarium faced possible foreclosure and the closest general hospital was in Aurora.

“For emergent situations it became a problem, and with a growing population too, there was going to be more of these problems happening,” said Dr. Reschke. “So it was pretty vital that we were able to get this wonderful piece of property and turn it into an acute care hospital.”

Dr. Reshke and a number of naperville’s leading citizens were determined to make a change. The group of men and women met in the home of well-known Cock Robin restaurant founder Walter Fredenhagen and convinced the Sanitarium’s board that an all-purpose hospital was essential to the Naperville community.

Reschke knew that the tuberculosis center’s staff of 8 physicians and the equipment they had wouldn’t be enough. He was instrumental in raising $100,000 to hire more doctors and obtain the equipment needed to transition it into a working hospital by the end of 1955.

When it opened, the hospital had only 45 beds, priced no more than $25 a night. And its emergency room was nothing like what you see today.

“The emergency room was actually manned by the tending physicians – which means me – for about 24-hrs at a time. We would have the responsibility of taking care of anyone who came into the emergency room.”

As the years passed, Dr. Reschke says the advancement in technology was vital to the hospital’s expanding its services to the community.

“Can you imagine today, not having the CT Scans or MRIs or any of the highly specialized radioactive tests? Even the blood tests, there were very few things that we could measure at that time,” said Dr. Reschke. “The technical level was the big improvement over the years.

Edward Hospital took a huge leap forward in 1983, when Illinois’s State Representative, the late Mary Lou Cowlishaw, pushed for legislation to change the public hospital into a private institution. This took the funding burden away from taxpayers and alleviated the many restrictions placed upon the institute by state government.

“I will always remember with gladness in my heart the day we got our real estate tax bill [and] for the very first time there, was no line item on it to pay for Edward Hospital,” said Cowlishaw. “It was just like I had performed magic.”

Dr. Reschke says that magic stems from generations of hard work and determination.

“There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into this building,” said Reschke. “To start something from scratch and try to turn this old building into something that was viable and safe was really a project.”

Dr. Reschke continued to practice family medicine at Edward Hospital until 1994, when he retired at age 71 from a career that revolutionized healthcare in Naperville for more than four generations.

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