My journey begins the day I entered into this world at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital the year of 1970 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Where is this location you ask? Picture Wisconsin as a left-handed mitten and place it on a flat surface with your thumb most rightward. Looking at the base of your thumb is the area and location of the Fox Cities. Appleton is part of the Fox Cities in northeastern Wisconsin. The Fox River extends roughly from Kaukauna, Wisconsin on the north side to Neenah, Wisconsin and collectively is known as the Fox Valley. This includes the watershed of the Fox River, a river that flows south to north directly into the Bay of Green Bay.
Below you will find a typical navigational route to the local hospital near my hometown, Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital. Compliments of mapquest, the journey is less than 8 miles total distance that required crossing the Fox River along the way. Back in the day, there was no mapquest or GPS navigation systems. Family’s relied on paper maps, or for the navigational challenged, landmarks to guide the route.
Founded in 1899 by the Franciscan Sisters, Daughters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Saint Elizabeth’s hospital has witnessed many of our vast family’s medical encounters through the years from births, illness, surgeries, and the like. Countless cousins and family members on up the pedigree to great grandparents were cared for in these hallways. If these medical records could speak, they would tell volumes of journeys throughout the years of a robust Peeters (my mother’s maiden name and one of 12 siblings) and Romenesko (my father and one of 7 siblings) families all living within a closely knit community within the Fox Valley area. This hospital is and was our healing center of excellence in the close proximity to my hometown in Kaukauna, Wisconsin and remains to this day in 2014. Health care needs of the community certainly have shifted over time, but the hospital still remains a strong resource to the Fox Valley community.
On a typical winter Monday in March, I was born to my mother Susan Romenesko and James Romenesko. Average low was 9 degrees and high just below freezing. No snowfall was recorded impacting travel to the hospital that day. My older brothers were three and a half years and 23 months of age at the time of my birth. From all respects the birth was uneventful for mom and baby. I was discharged as planned with my parents. Interesting comparison, the hospital length of stay for a vaginal delivery was not a 24 hours stay as it is today. At the time, breastfeeding wasn’t as culturally popular for a number of reasons, and I was formula fed. I was followed along by my pediatrician and nothing untoward happened during my infant years health wise. I was baptized as customary in our very large catholic family. Holy Cross Church was our local church.
Our growing family was about to embark on the first of many encounters with the specialized pediatric medical system from a surgical standpoint. My older brother and closest in age to me was born with complex univentricular congenital heart disease and predicted to not survive past 1-2 years of age. Greg was also born at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital. During the transition time of my birth through the first 3 months of infancy, my parents, Greg’s pediatric cardiologist, and surgeon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were in the process of evaluating the risks and benefits of a surgical procedure that could offer hope to prolong his life while giving him the best chance for a good quality of life to date. At that time, the Milwaukee Children’s Hospital was downtown. The location has changed to a regional medical center near the Milwaukee County Zoo and is known today as Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.