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Brave Beginning: Exploring The Roots Of Baltimore's Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Nestled in the hills of a North Baltimore neighborhood is the massive property of the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital.

The hospital is a literal lifeline for children, and representatives say the team there cares for an estimated 8,500 children every year.

"Today what we deal with are children who have rehab needs that could be from surgery or from trauma," president and CEO Sheldon Stein said.

 If not for the hospital, Stein said these children would likely leave an acute care hospital prematurely or without the resources they need to stay home and get better.

"Perhaps getting sicker and winding up back in an acute care hospital, and it becomes a cycle," he said.

The hospital was started in 1922 by Hortense Kahn Eliasberg, who was just 22 years old at the time and came up with the idea for the hospital after her college thesis.

"Compassionate motivated, intelligent. She didn't take no for an answer," Stein said of Eliasberg. "There are pictures around the institution of this woman who is fairly tiny statue surrounded by these very prominent physicians and businessmen in Baltimore that she would not take no for an answer. And when she got this vision for the convalescent care, she went to the biggest names of the medical community in this area and rally them all behind this vision of hers."

Phyllis Meyerhoff was a patient at the hospital more than 80 years ago, receiving treatment for rheumatic fever at the original Mt. Washington facility, then known as "Happy Hills." She has since dedicated her time as a board member and donor, and has a unit at the hospital named in her honor.

 "I think that she was just very unique and obviously had a vision of what she felt was needed," Meyerhoff said. "She just made up her mind this is something our community needed and she was dedicated to improving the health of children."

 Meyerhoff acknowledged that when she visits Mt. Washington and sees the children who are benefiting from the facility's care, she sees herself.

"I couldn't help but think of the fact that I was one of them a long time ago, and I was fortunate enough to lead a nice long life afterwards," she said.

The original hospital is now a private home in Mount Washington and WJZ visited with Eliasberg's granddaughter.

"It's just hard to believe that, at 22 years of age, she found somebody willing to donate this house for her use for the use of the hospital," Ann Betten, Eliasberg's granddaughter, said.

 She said she finds herself wishing all the time she had gotten a chance to meet her grandmother.

 "Especially every time I walk into that building, and sometimes at night if I'm working on something related to the hospital, I wish that I could talk to her about it," Betten said.

Eliasberg died of cancer before she turned 50, but her vision--which is now a thriving pediatric hospital--has since provided rehabilitative care for tens of thousands of children.

"I say all the time if my grandmother could see what we are doing today, she would be amazed and proud and so grateful that her vision not only survived but thrived," Betten said. "And all of us are contributing to keeping that vision alive and making it a success and it is, it's a huge success.

The Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital has partnerships with the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The hospital also has facilities in Prince George's and Harford counties.

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