Earliest known photograph of Hartford Hospital circa 1870.

Earliest known photograph of Hartford Hospital circa 1870.

From its inception 160 years ago, Hartford Hospital has been a leading force of change and innovation, with an unwavering commitment to providing the best, most – advanced care.

And time has revealed dramatic changes – from horse-drawn ambulances to LIFE STAR; from the rudimentary medical-training doll named Mrs. Chase to cutting-edge medical mannequins that breathe, speak and react to treatment. Hartford Hospital has helped drive this amazing evolution, providing beyond-advanced care, then and now.

Beyond Advanced, Right From the Start

In March 1854, a catastrophic explosion at Hartford’s Fales and Gray railroad-car factory killed and injured scores of workers. The event revealed that the city was not prepared to deal with mass casualties or care for people who had limited resources. City leaders rallied to the cause, and Hartford Hospital was born.

The hospital’s first new building, dedicated in April 1859, was the most advanced of its time. A model of forward thinking, it was designed for later expansion. High ceilings and large windows maximized natural light and air flow to fight disease. Other super-modern features included central heating, gas lighting and speaking tubes.

The role of the physical environment in healing was always incorporated in the hospital’s decisions. For example, tuberculosis was a major public health problem at the turn of the 20th century. When new scientific evidence showed that caring for TB patients in a separate facility prevented the spread of the disease and promoted recovery, Hartford Hospital took decisive action, creating the free-standing Wildwood Sanatorium in May 1902.

Today, its substantial campus is about to grow again, with the construction of the state-of-the-art Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute.

Responding to Disaster

The 1854 explosion that gave rise to Hartford Hospital set a tone for its future. Being prepared for emergencies, trauma and large-scale disasters was to become part of the fabric of the institution.

In 1918 and 1919, an influenza pandemic killed roughly 20 million people worldwide and more than 600,000 in the United States. Countless more fell desperately ill. Hartford Hospital took unprecedented steps and dedicated all but two of its wards to influenza patients and opened an emergency hospital on the grounds of the Hartford Golf Club.

In 1942, when the technology to obtain and store blood was still in its infancy, the city’s first blood bank was established at Hartford Hospital. After the attack on
Pearl Harbor, local citizens donated 2,700 pints of blood to the new blood bank. The hospital stockpiled blood for local emergencies and sent supplies to the armed forces.

A large-scale disaster that remains the worst in Hartford’s history struck in July 1944, when fire ravaged a packed circus tent, killing 167 people and injuring hundreds more. Hartford Hospital was ready. The hospital had an emergency mobilization plan in place, as well as detailed, written protocols for treating burn victims. Thanks to the blood bank created in 1942, victims were able to receive needed transfusions.

In 1961, a fire that began in a trash chute spread through the ninth floor of Hartford Hospital’s High Building, causing 16 deaths. Hospital President Dr. T. Stewart Hamilton immediately began open discussions with staff members and brought in outside fire-safety experts to determine what hospitals everywhere could learn from Hartford’s tragedy. The effort led to changes in hospital safety practices nationwide.

The hospital took emergency response to new heights when, in 1985, it introduced LIFE STAR, Connecticut’s first critical-care helicopter service. The LIFE STAR team provides critical-care in transit for even the most complex patients. To date, it has transported more than 30,000 patients.

Today, Hartford Hospital is home to the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center. The Trauma Center provides multidisci- plinary, comprehensive emergency services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Hartford Hospital was founded in 1854 as a place where the finest medicine would be made available to those in need of care.

A Leader in Surgery

Hartford Hospital’s leadership in surgery has spanned more than a century. Abdominal surgery was rare in the 19th century, but by 1901 Hartford Hospital surgeons were performing more than 100 such procedures every year. By 1907, the hospital had created a second operating room and, to ensure patient safety, acquired the latest sterilization equipment.

The miracle of organ transplantation came early to Hartford Hospital. In 1971, Hartford Hospital performed the state’s first kidney transplant. In 1984, it performed
the first successful heart transplant in Connecticut, and the patient is still alive and well. The state’s first liver transplant was performed at Hartford Hospital in 1985. The hospital was also a leader in joint replacement, performing the state’s first total hip replacement in 1971.

Constantly breaking new ground in surgery, Hartford Hospital began using minimally invasive – or laparoscopic – surgical techniques in the early 1970s. Minimally invasive surgery uses only a few, tiny incisions, reducing trauma, blood loss and pain, speeding recovery. The hospital went on to earn an international reputation in the 1990s for pioneering laparoscopic gall bladder and kidney removal. In 2004, it became the first in Connecticut to use the da VinciTM Surgical System, an advanced robotic device that enables surgeons to perform minimally invasive proce- dures with exquisite precision. Today, the hospital uses robotic systems to perform procedures in specialties that include urology, cardiology and gynecology.

In 2010, neurosurgeons performed Hartford Hospital’s first “awake” craniotomy. The procedure allows surgeons to operate on brain tumors, once considered inoperable, close to the brain’s language centers. The procedure is an example of Hartford Hospital’s commitment to providing patients with the most advanced medical and surgical technologies.

Early imaging at Hartford Hospital.

Advanced Technology

Hartford Hospital has always adopted innovative technolo- gies. As soon as it was wired for electricity in 1899, the hospital set about obtaining the latest in medical technology. It immediately acquired the first X-ray machines and, in 1910, established an entire X-ray department under the leadership of Dr. Arthur Heublein. It acquired its first CT scanner in 1976 and, in 2002, was the first hospital in New England to install a PET/CT scanner.

Recognizing the benefits of enabling clinicians to practice critical skills in the safest way, the hospital in 1999 acquired its first life-like, high-technology mannequin for use in training. Today, its Center for Education, Simulation and Innovation (CESI) is a 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art training facility. It features multiple, computerized manne- quins, a training version of the da VinciTM robotic surgical system and the ability to simulate a range of extremely realistic scenarios. Clinicians from all over the world come to CESI to practice and perfect complex procedures in a safe learning environment. This training enhances multidisci- plinary team performance, improves the quality of patient care and increases patient safety.

In 2010, Hartford Hospital opened its state-of-the-art hybrid operating room. Equipped with leading-edge medical imaging technology, the hybrid OR means patients with vascular problems such as aneurysms – potentially fatal bulges in artery walls – and blocked coronary or peripheral arteries can have both open surgery and minimally invasive procedures performed in the same room, at the same time.

Pioneering Nursing Education & Practice

When Hartford Hospital was founded, formal training programs for nurses were not common. Yet hospital leaders saw the need to create a cadre of educated, skilled caregivers. In 1877, it opened Hartford Hospital’s Training School for Nurses. The school was only the fourth school of nursing in the country. Others were in Boston, New Haven and New York City. The school, later renamed the Hartford Hospital School of Nursing, operated until 1976.

The hospital went on to demonstrate exceptional vision in developing innovative approaches to nursing care. In the 1940s, it became one of the first hospitals to institute “team nursing,” which increased nurses’ managerial roles and reallocated tasks so nurses could devote more time to caring for patients. In the 1990s, the hospital’s establishment of collaborative management teams (including nursing, medical staff and administrative leaders) to enhance decision making became a model for other hospitals nationwide.

Today, nurses at Hartford Hospital serve in a range of leadership roles. They are equal participants in decision- making and provide patients with compassionate, evidence-based care.

Dr. Henry B.C. Low and his patient Andrew Buczek – the first successful heart transplant performed in Connecticut at Hartford Hospital in 1984.

An Active Center of Research

In 1921, Hartford Hospital moved its much-expanded pathology department to a dedicated, three-story building, the Hall-Wilson Laboratory. The laboratory provided space for the ever-growing number of diagnostic tests. Just as important, it enabled Hartford Hospital physicians to conduct their own medical research. This led the hospital to add to its stated main purpose, “the advancement of medical knowledge by research, both clinical and experimental.”

Today, research is a vital part of Hartford Hospital, with a well-developed infrastructure to evaluate and support research, and a variety of ongoing research projects and clinical trials. In fiscal year 2014, the hospital secured $8.9 million in research funding, an impressive figure for an institution of its kind.

Healing From Within

Hartford Hospital is a leader in using approaches that address serious medical conditions endoscopically, that is, from within the patient’s body. Using sophisticated imaging and the most advanced tools, physicians can thread a tiny tube into a patient’s blood vessel through a small incision to repair aneurysms, remove blood clots in the brain that are causing stroke, replace diseased heart valves, disable heart cells that are causing abnormal heart rhythms – and more.

In 2011, Hartford Hospital became the first in New England to use an innovative tool called the PipelineTM Embolization Device. Pipeline is a fine-mesh cylinder, or stent, that is used to treat dangerous aneurysms in the blood vessels of the brain. Implanted across the opening of the aneurysm, the Pipeline stent redirects blood flow, relieving pressure on the aneurysm sac that could lead to rupture.

Hartford Hospital in 2012 was the first in the region to offer a breakthrough procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure for replacing diseased aortic valves in patients who are not well enough for open-heart surgery. In 2014, the hospital was the first in Connecticut to use the implantable MitraClip® to treat debilitating mitral-valve disease in patients unable to undergo open-heart surgery.

Also in 2012, Hartford Hospital became the first center between New York and Boston to acquire the Hansen Sensei® X Robotic Catheter System. The system enables electrophysiologists to correct patients’ abnormal heart rhythms endoscopically with unprecedented precision and reduced X-ray exposure.

A National First in Cancer Care Innovation

For all of its 160 years, Hartford Hospital has been at the cutting edge of providing medical care for conditions ranging from the simple to the most complex. Its well- known leadership in cancer care was underscored in 2014 when the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, which includes Hartford Hospital, was chosen as the first member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance. The alliance is designed to rapidly move innovative, evidence-based cancer care into the community, ensuring that patients receive world-class care, close to home.