December 15, 2022

Hospital founded by Goucher alumna celebrates its 100th anniversary


Phyllis C. Meyerhoff was just four years old when her parents took her to a quiet estate in Mt. Washington named Happy Hills Convalescent Home, dropped her off, and drove away. It was 1938 and Meyerhoff, like many children of her era, had been diagnosed with rheumatic fever, first by her pediatrician, then by Helen Taussig, the renowned physician-in-chief of the cardiac clinic at the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children at Hopkins. It was Taussig’s recommendation that Meyerhoff go to Happy Hills for what was then known as a rest cure.

“At the time, there were no antibiotics available, which would have corrected [rheumatic fever], so the only known cure for it was complete bed rest,” says Meyerhoff, now 88.

Happy Hills would be Meyerhoff’s home for the next 10 months. To reduce the threat of germs, parent visits were discouraged. Meyerhoff only saw her parents and brother during a few designated hours each Sunday.

“They put me in a crib in a big room with other children,” Meyerhoff recalls. “Of course, there was no television, so they would play the radio—soap operas and, on Saturdays, Let’s Pretend and The Shadow—and we would have a teacher come in during the week to work with us on basic reading and arithmetic.”

Meyerhoff and her brother in 1938.

Despite the long weeks without her parents and living confined to her bed for most of the day, Meyerhoff remembers the convalescent home as “a loving environment,” where the staff recognized that the children in its care were away from the lives and family they knew. Eventually, Meyerhoff made a complete recovery.  As an adult, she learned that her successful recuperation at Happy Hills was made possible by the efforts of a determined young woman, Hortense Kahn Eliasberg, who founded the convalescent home in 1922. One hundred years later, Happy Hills is still serving pediatric patients, and is now known as Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital (MWPH).

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