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The Journey Begins
It was not yet spring, but the brisk winds were signaling a change of season from the bitter cold. The young mother welcomed the hint of warmer months to come and opened the window of the second story apartment in the downtown hotel. The breezes still were chilly but it seemed to cleanse the air and atmosphere within the rooms, Mrs. Barringer thought. Her small son Rufus, a fair, curly-haired, bright-eyed little boy of three, echoed her delight in the fresh air with chattering and enthusiasm. His voice seemed to compete with the sounds of business and bustling that could be heard all the way up from the street.
Then, what was never supposed to happen, possibly every mother’s nightmare, became a reality for this young woman. In a matter of seconds, Mrs. Barringer watched as her toddler ran to the open window to sneak a peak at the activity below. But before she could react, she watched as her child lost his balance and fell from the window to the pavement more than twenty feet below.
Recognizing the seriousness of the accident, someone who had witnessed his fall from below quickly sought emergency care for Rufus, whose whimpering was becoming lower and lower and whose skull was badly crushed by the blow of hitting the street. But where would the child be taken for care and whom should be called to help? There was no 911 or emergency line to access. In fact, there were many folks without phone service in the community or even motor vehicles available for transporting the injured.
Rufus Barringer’s accident occurred in downtown Florence on March 8, 1899, more than a century ago. Central Hotel, located on Evans Street at the turn of the century, stood only yards away from the current facility of McLeod Regional Medical Center, which now provides care for nearly 50 trauma cases a month through its emergency department.
Immediately after his plunge to the street, a passerby picked up the boy and carried him to “Palace Drug Store, owned by Dr. Furman P. Covington and Dr. Frank Hilton McLeod, Physicians and Surgeons,” proclaimed the signage.
Dr. Lawrence Y. King, a well-known physician in the city, happened to be in the store at the time and quickly attended to the boy. Seriously hurt, the lad cried a little, but soon lapsed into unconsciousness. Among the other physicians hurriedly summoned was Dr. F. H. McLeod. Since he was fond of children, the situation must have been troubling to him.
Perhaps he knew Rufus because the stricken boy’s father had a place of business in the same building as Dr. McLeod’s medical office, at 209 Evans Street, located on the same end and side of the block that the historic Old Florence Post Office stands on today.
Feverishly, Dr. McLeod and his colleagues “devoted their energies to saving the little life.” However, examination revealed Rufus had a severely fractured skull and the prognosis was poor. His short life ended three days after the incident on March 11. A small grey headstone marks the youngster’s resting place in a local cemetery, commemorating the life of a child who lived “three years, three months and 10 days.” And, buried at his feet, with an even smaller stone marker helping to identify the significance was “our boy and dog, Major 1897-1914.” Rufus’ memory was honored a decade after his passing as his was the only family pet allowed to be interred in those grounds.
The tragedy of Rufus Barringer affords a rare glimpse into the early practice of Dr. Frank Hilton McLeod, who became the foremost physician of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. As a young man, he obtained a medical education at schools in Georgia and Tennessee. He tried two different locations before establishing his medical practice in Florence in 1891. He became active in matters of professional medicine and he acquired an enviable reputation for his surgical skills. Founding the Florence Infirmary in 1906 and conducting its affairs were Dr. McLeod’s most important contributions. In the early years of the hospital’s development, he determined to make it an institution serving the medical needs of the Florence community and its environs, but also the eastern section of South Carolina. Through medical talent, entrepreneurial skill and hard work, his dream was a functioning reality by 1917.
It was the tragic fall in 1889 of a three-year-old boy from a second story apartment that inspired Dr. F.H. McLeod’s vision of a hospital for Florence and the region. For the decades following, McLeod’s strategic plan as a full service health care organization included the development, growth and continued improvement of emergency and trauma services, as well as the provision of expert cancer treatment and research, heart care, neurology services, women’s and children’s services and subspecialty programs. Additionally, as local ambulance services and commissions were established by counties within the region as well as private corporations to coordinate operations for transporting injured patients, McLeod has been a leader in defining the skills required to anticipate, assess, treat and administer the care of those in need of medical attention, through HeartReach and ChildReach transport teams, for example.
The founders of McLeod understood the need to provide access to treatment and advanced care and specialized surgeries. They did indeed set the precedent for superlative hospital practices and expertise. Today, McLeod Health carries on that tradition with highly experienced professionals, the widest spectrum of health services available in the region, extraordinary outcomes and patient testimonials, cost efficient-care, expansion and growth to meet the needs or area residents.
The Journey Continues
McLeod Medical Center-Dillon
Saint Eugene Hospital was founded in 1943 through the cooperative efforts of Dr. William Branford, the people of Dillon County, and the Sisters of Saint Mary. In 1998, Saint Eugene joined McLeod Health as part of the McLeod Regional continuum of care. McLeod Medical Center-Dillon is a thriving 79-bed, not for profit, JCAHO accredited, community hospital providing inpatient acute care and outpatient services. These services range from same day surgery to an extensive variety of diagnostic testing.
In 1972, a new hospital was built on the present site of McLeod Medical Center-Dillon. An expansion project in 1987 included a new emergency department, intensive care unit, and enhanced pediatric department. The Professional Building opened in 1995.
This 37,000 square foot addition provides space for five medical practices, a Wellness Center, Cardiac Rehabilitation, and Physical Therapy. Construction of a new state-of-the-art surgical facility was completed in 2003. This 14,000 plus square foot addition houses three operating rooms, a procedure room, recovery room, and same-day surgery.
McLeod Medical Center Darlington
McLeod Medical Center Darlington has been a vital part of Darlington County for more than 50 years. As healthcare needs have changed, McLeod Darlington has changed to offer new services and technology for its patients.
Dr. John Wilson opened Darlington’s first hospital in 1948 in a framed, two-story house on Pearl Street. In 1956, renovations and expansions were made, and 12 patient units, a modern laboratory, x-ray room, delivery room, operating room, emergency room, kitchen, nurses' station and utility room were added.
The facility consisted of two operating rooms, delivery room, labor room, radiology department, emergency room, doctor offices, examination rooms, and a complete administration department. In 1987, renovations and expansions were made, which included 22 additional examination rooms, treatment room, conference center, doctors' offices, day care, medical records department, new front lobby, new patient waiting rooms, Bear Necessities Gift Shop, pharmacy and expansion of the emergency department. Through the years, with all the changes in healthcare and in order to live up to the standards, Dr. John Wilson often said we can never become complacent and stop improving ourselves.
After much thought, consideration, meetings, prayers, and input from the Wilson family, the hospital was purchased by McLeod Regional Medical Center in 1994. The name changed from Wilson Clinic and Hospital to Wilson Medical Center, a division of McLeod Regional Medical Center. Many expansions and renovations have taken place since McLeod purchased Wilson. In 1995, a new 18-bed Skilled Care Unit was dedicated honoring Dr. John Wilson and his contributions to the community of Darlington. In June 1998, a new physician office building, McLeod Family Medicine Darlington, opened on the campus. The physician office includes five family physicians and one nurse practitioner. In addition to the Swing Bed Unit, McLeod Medical Center Darlington has 41 acute care beds with telemetry monitoring, radiologic services to include digital mammography and multi-slice CT Scan, laboratory services, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, respiratory therapy, EEG, EKG, vascular services and surgical services to include general, plastic, vascular and gynecological. To date, over $12 million have been invested in facility and capital equipment.
In December 2004, the name of the facility was changed to McLeod Medical Center Darlington. In 2005, a 23,000 square foot facility was constructed to house McLeod Behavioral Health Services. This facility includes 23 inpatient rooms, an open living area, and outdoor courtyards. The McLeod Medical Center Darlington staff consists of compassionate professionals dedicated to providing quality care and service. We take pride in providing excellent care with a personal touch. At McLeod Darlington we are big enough to take care of all of your needs but small enough to know you on a first name basis.