Celebrating 70 years: First patient of Valley Children's reflects on hospital's growth

Myrna Zivanich was the first patient in 1952, when the hospital was located near Millbrook and Shields Avenues in Central Fresno.

Amanda Aguilar Image
Monday, October 24, 2022
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Valley Children's Healthcare is preparing to celebrate 70 years of serving kids across Central California.

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Valley Children's Healthcare is preparing to celebrate 70 years of serving kids across Central California.

Ahead of the anniversary on Wednesday, Action News is sharing the stories that have become part of the hospital's legacy.

Hundreds of thousands of young patients have walked through Valley Children's doors.

However, 9-year-old Myrna Zivanich was the first patient in 1952, when the hospital was located near Millbrook and Shields Avenues in Central Fresno.

Zivanich went in with a bellyache.

"We finally ended up finding somebody that really knew how serious it was, and it was an emergency," she recalled. "There were no hospitals around open or available to take me. So we came out, we were sent out here to Children's."

Doctors diagnosed her with appendicitis, and she needed an emergency appendectomy.

Zivanich remembers her parents saying there wasn't time to drive to other hospitals. She needed the procedure done right away.

"What could have happened if you didn't get that emergency procedure," asked Action News reporter Amanda Aguilar.

"Well, I've heard of a burst, appendix burst. Then you've got infection all through your inner stomach," Zivanich said. "So I'm glad I made it here."

She walked out of Valley Children's with no bellyache, but filled with gratitude.

"I had people around me, assuring me that everything was fine," recalled Zivanich. "That made it a lot easier."

She returned to Valley Children's to work in the neonatal ICU, then retired in 2007 working at the gift shop.

On Monday morning, at 79 years old, she came back to Valley Children's to reflect on the hospital's growth with the President and CEO.

"We have stood on the shoulders of each generation, to continue to live up to the vision of the founding mothers," said Todd Suntrapak. "More recently, in the past decade or so, I think that we're very proud of the services that we've added, expanded the sophistication of those services, and especially the outcomes of those services."

Todd Suntrapak believes the future of Valley Children's is bright and promising, saying in the coming decades, they hope to help more children.