Then and Now: 50 Novembers: Parkland Hospital




Posted on May 22, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 18 at 5:44 PM

DALLAS — On November 22, 1963, 23 patients were already in the emergency room when President John F. Kennedy was brought into Trauma Room 1 at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

There was no central air conditioning inside Parkland at the time. The room was crowded with doctors, security, and the president's wife.

"As we looked at the president, I never saw any evidence of life," said Dr. Ronald Jones, Parkland's chief resident at the time. "I didn't see him breathe; his eyes were open and fixed."

Now 80, Jones recalls the day clearly. He only recently retired as chief of surgery at Baylor University Medical Center.

In fact, no one who was working at Parkland 50 years ago is employed there today.

Trauma Room 1 has been a radiology waiting room since 1969, when the hospital expanded and renovated. Only a bronze plate with a date — no explanation — marks the spot where President Kennedy was pronounced dead.

A memorial display with a bronze bust, a presidential seal, and a few other mementos in the administrative hall are the only other reminders of Parkland's infamous connection to JFK history.

"Actually, we needed to get approval from the White House for how we were going to set it up," explained Walter Jones, Parkland's senior vice president of facilities. "The portraits we were going to use... the plaques we were going put in place... they wanted to make sure they were accurate."

The emergency room currently treats nearly 200,000 patients annually.

Trauma bay numbers start with 27. There is no longer a number one. There is very little similar to the emergency room of 1963.

"The bed — that's about it," said Dr. Brent Treichler, Parkland Chief of Emergency Services. "We have more monitors. We have more and higher-quality equipment than probably what was available since then."

But Treichler said, based on the injuries suffered by President Kennedy, not even today's best available technology could have saved him.

Just in case, since 1963, Parkland reserves a trauma room each time a sitting president visits Dallas.

With a new $1.3 billion hospital facility rising across the Harry Hines Boulevard comes the potential the old place will eventually be torn down and the bronze plate marking Trauma Room 1 will vanish... and Parkland's link to the Kennedy legacy will be left to fading memories and photographs.