I.C. MURRELL — St. Mary building represents what Port Arthur was, can be

Published 12:12 am Friday, January 10, 2020

Anyone in Port Arthur who’s lived here long enough might feel lucky to have gotten to interact with the towering St. Mary Hospital, even if he or she was in dire straits.

For this reporter, no situation was more dire than during Game 1 of the 2017 World Series. It wasn’t that I cared who won the series; I grew up in Cardinals territory, mind you.

Nearly two months following the impact of Hurricane Harvey, another present mainstay in the middle of town, The Port Arthur News, was not yet in operational condition. So, except for 9 a.m. meetings in an available hotel suite up the road from the office, we were all spread out.

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Working from home was anything but comfortable, given the District 22-5A football schedule was unusually staggered to games being played every five to six days to catch up with the rest of the state. Adding to the stress, it was the first football season I worked as a solo reporter.

Thus, the sense of a whole new world had settled. But, surely, there was a sense of calm after a storm like none other, one would think.

Surely, one was wrong.

Sometime during the pregame show for Game 1, a chest pain grew, bringing about some confusion weeks after heart conditions were ruled out in a doctor’s visit. I threw further caution into the wind and drove myself to St. Mary, wishing not to pay as big a bill as I paid on the spot at another facility earlier in the year.

Yeah, 2017 did something to a man. While I’ve survived, St. Mary hasn’t.

State Rep. Dade Phelan would like to change that.

In a letter to President Trump, Phelan suggested either our St. Mary or Baptist Orange Hospital be converted to a VA Medical Inpatient Hospital.

At present, the closest VA hospital is in Houston.

“There are over 22,000 veterans who live in Orange and Jefferson counties,” Phelan wrote. “Sadly, we are unable to properly care for our veterans in Southeast Texas because the nearest VA Medical Inpatient Hospital is over 100 miles away.”

Phelan added in the letter that difficulty and expense to travel to Houston or Baton Rouge, La., for inpatient care poses a challenge for elderly and disabled veterans locally.

Luckily, I lived here long enough to know how important St. Mary’s place is in Port Arthur history. Make no mistake, a VA hospital won’t be more of an income generator than an oil refinery, but it will add to this great city more priceless resources than oil and money — people to serve people who served.

Credit Rep. Phelan for looking out for us and our veterans. This suggested act would revive a place that’s revived the lives of so many Port Arthurans and renew a sense of purpose in one of America’s ports.

Right now, we can only imagine what St. Mary and Port Arthur can be.

I.C. Murrell is the editor of The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2435 or at ic.murrell@panews.com.

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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