As I listened to bluegrass music while preparing dinner the other night it brought to mind a visit to the Appalachian town of Hyden, Kentucky. In my first real job after being home with kids for a decade, I was working for the John B. Franklin Maternity Hospital and Family Center in Philadelphia, as Director of Community Resources, a position that comprised volunteer services and fundraising. Certified nurse-midwives handled nearly all deliveries, with physician backup always available. It was a wonderful place that truly put the needs of patients and families first and where I learned what makes a hospital run, knowledge that would serve me well in a 35-year-long career fundraising for health care organizations.
In 1988, the Hospital began a partnership with Frontier Nursing Service. This unique organization, founded by Mary Breckenridge in 1925 , brought maternity care to some of the poorest areas of eastern Kentucky and vastly improved infant and maternal mortality. Kentucky had long been known for its beautiful quilts and crafts, and I hit upon a concept for a unique fundraising event that would incorporate a craft fair and social event in Philadelphia. So off I went to the Bluegrass State, where I would attend a state-wide craft fair and visit the home of Frontier Nursing.
After spending a day taking in the fair and assembling a list of potential vendors, I took off for Hyden in my rental car. Warmly greeted by FNS staffers, I was given a tour and a room in the Big House, the historic two-story log home of Mary Breckenridge. After a home-cooked meal served in the "Dogtrot" dining room, two local gentlemen took out their instruments and proceeded to play bluegrass music for us. One of them was missing several fingers, but that didn't stop him from giving a virtuoso performance on the banjo. Another clog-danced to the music, something I had never seen. I felt as if I had stepped back in time, sitting before a fireplace in this venerable log cabin listening to music that had been passed down through generations. I don't think I'll ever forget those moments.
Alas, the event I had conjured never came to pass because of budget constraints and sadly, the Hospital closed shortly thereafter due to insurmountable financial problems. Frontier Nursing University continues to thrive, however, continuing to improve public health in Eastern Kentucky and training health care professionals.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.