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History Museum

 

1. Taitung St. Mary's Hospital

 

Taitung, Taiwan: 1961. The savage sun beats down upon the backs of men tending to the fields. Their skin scorched red by its ravaging rays, but there is no time to halt. Work means Life and Life must be lived. Not far away on those very fields, a weary woman lays incarcerated by the earth, pulse pounding, rags drenched in sweat and blood.


And just as her last breath is taken from her, her newborn child breathes its first.


It was from this dire image that St. Mary's Hospital was born. Greatly afflicted by the sight of women bearing babies in the fields and the poor sanitary conditions, Swiss fathers and Irish sisters in Taitung began to raise money abroad to build St. Mary's as a center for obstetrics. They introduced physicians and equipment to Taiwan and even trained local nurses to practice as "fake nurses" without certificates due to a shortage of professionals.


If you visit the hospital today, you may be surprised. St. Mary's is not your conventional hospital. Affectionately known as "Taiwan's Biggest Little Hospital" Taitung St. Mary's Hospital may only have 29 hospital beds, but its health promotion and outreach programs permeate deeply throughout the county, helping thousands every year. Early in the morning, a nun, nurse and doctor are en route together to care for patients in their homes. A delivery truck, heavily laden with meals for the elderly winds through the mountains not far behind. Later on, a team of social workers and aromatherapists lead a dozen elderly Aboriginal women in gentle exercises and invigorating massages. In the afternoon, guest doctors lecture patients on diabetes prevention and care. Meanwhile, trained volunteers guide visitors on a tour of the lush St. Mary's Organic Health Farm or Pei-Tse Institute, a learning center for chronic illnesses.


But despite its flourishing facade, St. Mary's Hospital has been inundated with financial difficulties and has come desperately close to shutting its doors not once, but twice within the past decade. Ironically, hospital employees have won six "Medical Devotion Awards" as well as the prestigious "Group Medical Devotion Award" in 2008. This makes the hospital the most frequent recipient of public commendation in all of Taiwan. However, in 2009 financial woes came to an apex. The hospital was unable to pay workers' salaries and faced the possibility of closure. The closure of the hospital would not only mean the peoples' loss of many good doctors and nurses, but also the loss of the top diabetes group in Taiwan and the only hospice care in Taitung. A hospital with over half a century of history caring for and pouring love into the county of Taitung would be lost. Would the cost of up-keeping the hospital outweigh the price of the patients' well-being? If such an outstanding hospital was forced to close, what was wrong with the medical systems in Taiwan? St. Mary's realized that if the hospital was to survive, it would have to raise a stifling $30million NT.


Fundraising commenced. Telephones rang round-the-clock, emails flooded in non-stop. The staff of St. Mary's had not even a moment to sleep! And in April of 2009, an amazing thing happened. The "Love" which St. Mary's had so unreservedly poured into Taitung for the past 50 years, flowed back into the hospital, but this time from all directions across the globe. In just 8 days, the world's biggest little hospital raised an astonishing $89million NT from generous contributors –nearly three times the projected goal of $30 million NT! We were deeply moved by their acts of kindness and generosity!


The positive energy that has surrounded Taitung St. Mary's Hospital is more than just the reward of the compassionate seeds planted in the hospital's early history; it represents the yearning in contemporary Taiwanese Society for a more humane model of medicine. Over the years, the endless devotion of many outstanding individuals from Jennifer Chen, a woman who was taken no more than a $1 wage over the past 30 years, to Sense Chen, who sacrificed his high-paying job as a writer and museum curator in Taipei to serve as St. Mary's CEO, has shaped the shining identity of St. Mary's Hospital. Driven by a simple phrase: "To do what others don't and go where others won't," the compassionate staff and volunteers of St. Mary's Hospital strive to fulfill the never-ending project to "Love God, Love people! Respect life! And serve the poor!"

 
2. Hospice Care

 

Hospice Service is the concept of restoring "the patient" to "a person".


In the summer of 2003, beloved Father Xi passed away in St. Mary's Hospital. Much to everyone's surprise, the mortuary sent a small truck without any canopy. The hospital staff insisted that the driver could not take his body away and after a heated argument, the driver left angrily. This incident is a potent reminder of three important things:


1. The living should be respected –even in their last moments


2. The dead should respected –even though they are gone


3. All people are human –even those living in the most remote regions


With this in mind, St. Mary's Hospital established the first and only hospice care center in Taitung in 2004. Under the guidance of caring doctors, nurses, aromatherapists and volunteers, St. Mary's is now the last stop in the lives of many Taitung people, a place where patients can prepare for death in peace and comfort, and with dignity.

 
3. Homecare

 

"If they can't come to us, we'll go to them!"


In addition to clinical and inpatient work, St. Mary's Hospital places great emphasis on domiciliary care. Today the love of Sister Patricia Aycock lives on. For over 30 years and without any government subsidies, the American Sister managed to help take care of the poorest aborigines by riding a motorcycle or driving a car loaded with medicines and patient files to their homes in the mountains. Sister Patricia founded the first homecare service in Taitung. Currently, a passionate team of doctors and nurses work together to provide homecare of the highest quality to patients across 170-km of Taitung coastline. Moreover, the hospital does not even charge patients for transportation fees although these are not covered by health insurance. As a result of their dedication, the ratio of St. Mary's patients in hospital to patients served offsite is 1:8 –the highest in the nation! However, this is not simply a statistic; it is the purest and most authentic manifestation of a "hospital without walls."

 
4. Elderly Daycare

 

"From the moment you are born, your parents are the only people who would sacrifice everything for you, including one of the most precious things of all: life."


In Taiwanese culture respect for the elderly is a very important value. In the beginning, parents do everything to provide for and take care of their children. But as they grow older, they require more patience, more love and more care. Taitung, however, is one the poorest counties in Taiwan. Often the children of elderly individuals must work during the day and cannot take care of their parents. Nursing homes and 24-hour care are simply too expensive for these families to afford. As an expression of love without boundaries, Taitung St. Mary's Hospital offers elderly daycare to the people of Taitung, a chance for children to care for their parents from afar. Six days a week, dear elderly individuals are brought to St. Mary's Hospital, which is fully accessible and provides free transportation. Here, an energetic, but gentle group of nurses provides them with meals and the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities including aromatherapy massage, exercise and arts.

 
5. Diabetic Care Center

 

In Taitung the incidence of diabetes is very high, especially among the aboriginal population. It is estimated that 20-30% of the population with diabetes does not even know that they are suffering from it. Lack of education, poor diet and lifestyle regimes are all contributors to this problem. Despite this, the aboriginals often say, "You come to tell us not to smoke, nor to drink, nor to chew betel, but these are our happiest things." Of course, one cannot force another to change their habits; however, it is hoped that by proper example and supportive guidance, we can help people from all walks of life to achieve happier, healthier lives.


St. Mary's Hospital changed their approach by creating a diabetic care center. This center offers a diabetic patient group as well as a number of diabetic camps designed to focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle (eating, sleeping and exercise) for blood sugar management. Within Taiwan, St. Mary's Diabetic Care Center is one of the first to implement, monitor and educate patients on the concept of "Diabetes ABC's" where:


A stands for the A1C test, which monitors average blood glucose levels over the past 2-3
months. The AC1 goal for many people is below 7%.

 

B stands for blood pressure which is normally 130/80.

 

C stands for cholesterol. Levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol should be below 100mg/dl and HDL or "good" cholesterol should be above 40mg/dl.


All these components are key to reducing risk of heart attack, stroke and other diabetic problems, as well as a general healthy lifestyle.

 
6. Aromatherapy

 

"The fragrance of beautiful hearts and deeds."
When she first began her job as an aromatherapist, Nicole Wu never dreamed that she would go from serving the wealthiest Taiwanese women in luxurious spas to serving the poorest of the poor at a simple hospital in Taitung. But in 2009, she gave up everything -a well-paying job in Taipei, a nice home and closeness to family - to dedicate herself to the great needs of Taitung.


Devastated by the mass flooding in 2009, hundreds of empty-handed victims couldn't eat or sleep. Instead of taking a sleeping pill, they lined up for aromatherapy massage led by Nicole. Aromatherapy is a non-invasive therapeutic technique that utilizes essential oils to calm, relax and invigorate the body. This proved to be a great success.


After this, St. Mary's Hospital introduced aromatherapy to help the elderly and patients with regular oil massage. Aromatherapy is used widely in St. Mary's Hospice Program to soothe the pain of patients and improve their quality of sleep. We teach the family members of terminal cancer patients how to massage. A gratified family member once said, "Thank you, my mother passed in fragrance." A Sister on her deathbed with terminal cancer told all of her fellow Sisters "You have to learn aromatherapy!" The hospital has been praised because of its use of aromatherapy through various assessments and evaluations.


But aromatherapy isn't just for hospice. It has become an integral part of the hospital and is offered to regular patients, diabetic patients, family members as well as hospital staff. Additionally Teacher Nicole provides aromatherapy education courses for the public.

 
7. St. Mary's Health Club

 

"One ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." -Benjamin Franklin


At St. Mary's Hospital, preventative care is a key focus. Why wait for symptoms to develop and progress, if you can prevent them in the first place? Preventative care encompasses "teaching people to live healthy lives and working to foster a healthy society" from all facets of life: mind, body and spirit.


In 2006, associate administrator Jennifer Chen, convinced a Taitung native by the name Shunzi to set-up and run a health club on a vacant area within the hospital grounds. Two years later what started as the blueprint for a simple coffee-shop in which patients and their relatives would have a comfortable place to rest, was transformed into a luxurious health center with slanted, white walls and long-lattice windows. Now open to the public on a daily basis, St. Mary's Health Club provides the county-residents with delicious organic food and affordable healthy-living classes which provide instruction on a wide array of subjects from diet and nutrition to physical fitness and stress relief.

 
8. Pei-Tse Institute  

 

In honor of its original founders, Rev. Jacob Hiller and Rev. Alois Burke, the name Pei-Tse Institute, which means “to cultivate quality,” has been preserved.


Located just two kilometers away from St. Mary's Hospital, the Pei-Tse Institute now serves as a learning center for people with chronic illnesses, as well as the general public. This house has shared a long history with the people of Taitung. In 1955, under Rev. Hiller of Societas Missionaria de Bethlehem, the building once offered a place in which impoverished children could access educational opportunities and cultivate character. Now elderly, alumni of Pei-Tse Institute like Ou Chin-teh remember the place with great fondness, saying that he was an obstreperous child until the Institute opened his door to a better education.


Without compromising any of the integrity and spiritual principles exemplified by its original mission, Pei-Tse Institute has undergone extensive renovations with environmental values at the core. The addition of larger windows to make the building connect more harmoniously with the surrounding trees, makes the Pei-Tse Institute a tranquil place where one can come for regular aromatherapy and yoga classes. Additionally, a number of camps specifically tailored for people with chronic illnesses, as well as temporary lodging are available to the general public.

 
9. Stroke Victim Support Group

 

"More powerful than the will to win is the courage to begin."


Daniel was the president of a large company in the United States before a debilitating stroke nearly took away his will to live. After his recovery Daniel moved to Taitung, deciding that he would like to establish a stroke support group. Having suffered loss of control of his body, followed by many months of miserable rehabilitation, psychological adjustment, and severe depression, Daniel's family was a mess. He realized that family members were at a loss for lack of experience. He felt that his entire life had been taken away from him. Accordingly, he courageously sought help from stroke support groups in the United States. Thanks to their support Daniel has learned to live again. He is now happy and healthy and can drive, play golf and even table tennis.


Understanding that many stroke patients share similar experiences, Daniel worked with St. Mary's to set-up the first Stroke Victim Support Group in Taitung. By integrating social resources such as integrated healthcare and social welfare, with the expertise of several doctors of orthopedics, rehabilitation and psychiatry, this group aims to facilitate the courageous recovery of stroke victims to their normal lives. Eligibility for membership is without limitations and is completely free. Meetings take place every third Saturday morning of each month in St. Mary's Hospital.

 
 
10. Museum of the Living
 

 

Taitung St. Mary's Hospital, previously St. Mary's Maternity Hospital, was the first hospital in Taitung to specialize in obstetrics. Today over half the babies in Taitung are delivered here. Thousands of steady and powerful heartbeats seem to signify that Taitung has moved on from a previous lack of medical resources to glimmers of hope.


For the past 50 years, the hospital has had one simple and sincere aim: trying to convey "true love" by our actions, thereby breaking the boundary of medical services. The designer of Museum of the Living deliberately chose old delivery rooms and operating rooms, brimming full of historical significance, as the core of the hospital archive. The integration of innovative virtual and substantial media with the concept of a heartbeat brings out the power of life which runs throughout the hospital.


This history of this little hospital, a line of life, starts from an old prenatal heart monitor and all the accounts of its ups and downs are recorded among the high and low frequency electrocardiograms. In another area, a shelf with 100 drawers collects the stories of past deliveries and patients. Last of all, a previous operating room commemorates Dr. Shih, Shao-wei, a deceased surgeon whose lifetime devotion to St. Mary's and great love are still tangible. All of these things will bring joy to the visitors of the museum, allowing them to gradually feel the sincere and touching affection of Taitung St. Mary's Hospital.

 
11. St. Mary's Health Kitchen and Meal Delivery Service

 

Hollow, gaunt faces and vacant stares bear little resemblance to the vitality which once surged through the veins of the once youthful. With their children working in distant places, the elderly of Taitung have become a forgotten generation, whose ghosts still linger in neglected, bony frames. To see these sights is a painful experience. To think that there is no reward for the devotion of a mother, father or grandparent in later life is simply unjust. But it is from this darkness that beauty flourishes.


As a testament of boundless love, the hospital founded St. Mary's Health Kitchen and Meal Delivery Service. Back in the early days of its inception, nuns and cooks would rise early to begin cooking food to send in lunchboxes to the elderly, many of whom live alone in remote areas and have difficulty taking care of themselves. In the beginning, there were about 100 lunchboxes delivered daily.


However, this effort has since expanded. Today, in addition to the original kitchen at the hospital, a kitchen at St. Mary's Health Farm as well as kitchens in 7 other locations across Taitung county have been opened in order to serve the inhabitants of Taiwan's most remote areas with greater speed. Following tradition, cooks rise early to prepare warm, nutritious, custom-made meals which are delivered daily to elderly by a caring fleet of volunteers. Everyday 800 lunchboxes are delivered and this number continues to grow! It has become apparent that the daily ritual of meal preparation and delivery give the lonely elderly more than just proper nourishment –but also the interaction and genuine concern of others.

 
 
12. St. Mary's Health Farm

 

In 2009 Typhoon Morakot struck Taitung causing insurmountable flooding and damage. Many homes were destroyed, leaving hundreds homeless, unemployed and without hope. After the loss of his only daughter, his greatest motivation to work hard for a better life, one of the disaster victims wept so much that he feared he would flood Taitung again.


In the wake of disaster, St. Mary's Hospital quickly assembled emergency relief. Our goal was to rehabilitate and rebuild the lives of disaster victims. An abandoned farm along Taitung City's Zhiben Road that the Veterans' Affairs Commission was trying to lease became the foundation upon which this goal would grow.


Over the following year, nearly 4 acres of dilapidated farmland was transformed into a lush oasis which not only provided valuable job opportunities for disaster victims and aboriginals, but also served as a place to promote organic agriculture, as well as soil and water conservation. St. Mary's Health Farm is a welcome opportunity for visitors to get close to Mother Earth. Its facilities are diverse and include a farm plot for the general public to develop agricultural skills, an agrarian workshop, holiday farmer's market, a therapeutic garden, sales center and adjoining restaurant.

 
13. BMRI

 

In spite of the purity and beauty of the land, about 600 people in Taitung die of cancer every year. Moreover, Taitung's average life expectancy is a baffling ten years less than that of Taipei citizens, making it the lowest in the entire nation. One major contributor to shortened lifespan is the lack of resources in cancer screening. Unfortunately, many locals (especially those in remote areas) only discover cancer in its later stages, resulting in the need for painful and often futile treatments.


But in early 2012, a meeting between hospital associate administrator, Jennifer Chen and Olivia Chang, the president of Aurora Imaging Technology, resulted in a donation which was to change the lives of women all over Taitung –the donation of a cutting-edge Mobile Breast MRI System, worth over $2million USD! Only three hospitals in Taiwan have this class of system and although patients must pay out of pocket for the service, there is still a two month queue. As insurance does not cover the screening expense, mammograms for Taiwanese women are still considered optional and perhaps even a luxury.


Thanks to the generous donation from Aurora Imaging Technology, St. Mary's will now be able to provide free service to the Taitung area. Combined with St. Mary's Breast Cancer Support Group, this new BMRI system will be used to address all areas of breast health. Over the following years, we are hoping to make thousands of screenings for those at high-risk of breast cancer and significantly reduce the mortality rate of this disease in Taitung. Despite the heavy operating costs (about $200 000 USD per year), the arrival of BMRI to Taitung is nothing short of a miracle, bound to create many more miracles for the women of Taitung!


St. Mary's Hospital is also pleased to welcome Dr. P.J. Huang, Chief Director of Taipei Medical University Hospital's Breast Health Center and experienced doctor, as the Chief Director of the new Breast Health Center in Taitung.

 
 
14. Jialan Health Center

 

Imagine waking up one day to find that of your ten neighbors only two remain.

 

On October 8, 2009, Flood 88 ravaged Taitung, drenching the land and washing away many of the houses of Tai Ma Li township. St. Mary’s Hospital was immediately on the scene, providing aid and relief to disaster survivors. However, we soon realised that there is a great difference between simply rebuilding houses and rebuilding homes. To rebuild a house, you have to set some foundation and lay some bricks, but to rebuild a home and the lives which once filled it, requires much more.

 

Half a year after Flood 88, the Yeh family decided to provide their home to St. Mary’s Hospital to use –not only for the physical needs of disaster victims, but also for spiritual support. Filled with emotion the eldest sister of the family, Shuang-Tao said, “I originally thought that we were just providing our yard for the hospital to use, but I didn’t realise that they would go to such great lengths to make the project perfect. This is the place where we grew up and in my heart it’s still hard to let go. But if you experience the love of God, then you will be willing to give up everything.”

 

Now the Yeh family home has become a home for the entire community. Three times a week, hospital employees come to Jialan Health Center to teach dance, singing, aromatherapy massage and provide company to aboriginal elders and the victims of Flood 88. Through small acts of kindness, the events at Jialan Health Center encourage those from which everything was so heartlessly taken during Flood 88 to love, cherish and take care of each other.

 
 
15. Spiritual Healing Garden

 

Adjacent to St. Mary's Health Club, the Spiritual Healing Garden is a beautiful and tranquil refuge where patients and passers-by can relax and have fun. In 2007, a patient by the name of Liu was attending a clinic for diabetics on managing blood sugar. Liu felt such a strong affinity for the hospital that he moved all the way from Taipei to Taitung to volunteer for 4 months designing a therapeutic garden. The landscaping expertise of Liu combined with the countless hours of hard work donated by loving volunteers has resulted in a Spiritual Healing Garden which is replete with a flowing stream and picturesque gazebo from which patients and visitors alike may enjoy a soothing respite.

 
 
16. Sisters' Blessing Cake

 

"Baking these cakes is as if we are building a bridge. On one side there are rich people and on the other, there are poor."


St. Mary's Hospital sells a famous cake called "Sisters' Blessing Cake." Made by a group of Catholic nuns according to their own hometown recipes, these special cakes continue to garner media attention time after time. Delicious, crisp, refreshingly sweet and very nutritious, the Sisters of St. Mary's pour their loving hearts into the baking of each and every cake in order to raise funds to support the only Hospice Care in Taitung. Before the making of each cake, the Sisters have three prayers: first that the cakes will turn out successfully, second that the nuns will be happy as they bake and third, a wish for the good health of those who consume the cake.


From the very beginning, the Sisters' cakes got a very warm response from the Taitung community. As the orders for the cakes grew and grew, greater pressure was placed upon the Sisters. It was a double-edged sword; on one hand they had to hurry up the process of baking cakes, but on the other, they had to ensure the same good quality and taste. Today, new machinery has increased the efficiency of this loving process. Sisters' Blessing Cakes are available for order from St. Mary's Hospital and come in many different flavors.



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