It's no secret that the health care industry of today looks vastly different than it did only 20 or 30 years ago. Many of us have been around and witnessed the changes that have been spurred on by technological advances over that time period.

It’s no secret that the health care industry of today looks vastly different than it did only 20 or 30 years ago. Many of us have been around and witnessed the changes that have been spurred on by technological advances over that time period.

What if we could turn the clock back a bit further, say 77 years or so? What did health care look like back then?

A former Montevideo resident, Philip E. Knutson, was recently going through some old paperwork when he discovered two bills from the Montevideo Hospital. Knutson’s daughter, Karen Plemel, told the story of her dad’s two visits to the Montevideo Hospital in 1943 and 1945.

“My grandfather, T.C. Knutson, was the pastor of the Lutheran Free Church, which I believe had a name change to Our Savior’s,” said Plemel. “My father, along with his dad and mother Alice, lived in the parsonage, which was located about a block and a half from the church.”

The first bill was for a tonsillectomy, which was performed when Philip Knutson was seven years old in 1943. “Dad still remembers waking up from the procedure and asking for ice cream,” said Plemel.

The younger Knutson’s second hospitalization resulted in a two-part bill for surgery and hospitalization after he broke his leg above the knee. “On September 1, 1945, my father was playing “commando” with some friends. World War II was going on, and it was the day before the first day of his 4th grade school year,” said Plemel.

“They were playing in the barn/garage behind the parsonage when my father tried to quickly climb the stairs to the second story. He misstepped and fell to the ground, breaking his leg.”

Plemel said that her grandfather quickly fashioned a stretcher from two wooden rake handles, a blanket, and some oversized safety pins. “My grandparents laid my father on the back seat of the car and drove to the hospital.”

Phil Knutson spent a total of 54 and one-half days in the hospital in traction. Plemel said: “During the surgical procedure, the surgeon drilled a hole in my father’s knee for hanging weights for the traction so the bones could be pulled apart and put into place. He recalls pain during that first week, but not much pain after that.”

According to Plemel, her father’s doctors Dr. Lima and Dr. Lima, a father and son who worked together at the hospital. “My father credits them for doing a wonderful job since he has never had a problem with that leg, and he is 84 years old!” Plemel said.

You can imagine being a nine-year-old cooped up in a hospital, under traction no less, for 55 and a half days. Or perhaps, maybe you can’t, because such a thing is practically unheard of nowadays.

“No radios were allowed in the hospital, so it was during that time that he developed an appreciation for reading,” said Plemel. “He did have a subscription to the newspaper.”

According to Plemel, her father shared a hospital room with a farm boy from Maynard who also broke his leg. Plemel said: “Both my father and his roommate loved to drink Coca-Cola. They would shake their coke bottles and see who could squirt the wall. Needless to say, the room had to be repainted after their stay!”

Plemel’s father had a teacher who came to the hospital each week and went over the lessons with him. “He was in the hospital from the first day of school until the end of October, and he remembers that, shortly after he was released from the hospital, President Roosevelt passed away. My father said all the church bells in Montevideo rang all that afternoon.”

Now about those bills...

“My grandfather did not have insurance, but he was a minister and you will note that on the bottom of each bill was a clergy discount,” said Plemel. “As my father remembers, the church took up a collection to help with the bills.”

Philip Knutson’s 54 and a half day stay at the Montevideo Hospital in 1945 cost all of $339.75. The charge for the room was $5.50 per day, and the operating room fee was $8.00. A number of X-rays were taken during his stay, which amounted to a $23 charge. The anesthesia fee was $5, and medication cost $3.10. “Bottles of Coca-Cola were five cents back then,” added Plemel.

How times have changed!