As Cottonwood Hospital Medical Center observes its silver anniversary this month, it's mothers who will be celebrating.

Twenty-five years ago, south Salt Lake Valley was filled with isolated farming and mining towns. Because of their distance from adequate medical facilities, many mothers gave birth at home, resulting in the death of many mothers and infants.That's all changed.

Among the innovative services provided by Cottonwood today is the Center for Women's Health, facilities and services designed to meet the lifelong health care needs of women. The hospital also boasts its unique Black Institute, designed to help blacks deal with problems. In 1985, the Eating Disorders program was initiated, along with a children's psychiatric unit formed in conjunction with Primary Children's Medical Center. Three years ago KIDS-LINE, a 24-hour crisis line for children, was installed through the Women's Center. And in 1986, the "Weekend Option" was created at Cottonwood, a program designed to provide minor surgery scheduling on Friday evenings and Saturdays when it's most convenient for the patient.

Needless to say, the advancements didn't come overnight.

Concerned about mothers having safe births, The Cottonwood Stake Relief Society Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Amanda Bagley, Rena Wheeler and Mary Cornwall - went to church leadership to gain support for a maternity home. Many Utahns were born in that home, located on 56th South, between 1924 and 1963.

A general hospital, built to serve the health needs of a growing population, was dedicated on May 6, 1963. Its construction cost was $2.8 million. Known as the Cottonwood LDS Hospital, it opened its doors equipped with three surgical suites, three delivery rooms, an emergency area, laboratory, an X-ray suite, 120 beds and a medical staff of approximately 100 physicians.

During dedicatory services, John H. Vandenberg, then presiding bishop of the LDS Church, said: "The accelerated man-in-space program will almost certainly bring many medical instrumentation advances to the point where they can be exploited by our hospitals at least 10 years sooner than otherwise.

"Applied to the hospitals of the future, this could mean that many patients may have several small instruments attached to their bodies for continuous monitoring of current functions," he predicted.

He was right.

Soon after, the head nurse's display board showed the bed numbers down the left side of the board, and across the top temperature, respiration rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and skin resistance.

Today such technologies seem primitive.

The 227-bed hospital, now owned by Intermountain Health Care, has continued to expand with the need for medical services in the area.

Hospital spokesman John Taylor said a critical emphasis of Cottonwood has been to serve all individuals regardless of their ability to pay. "Cottonwood is taking that commitment a step further by developing a low-income clinic in the Kearns area," Taylor said. "Individuals who do not have the capability of paying for services will be able to receive quality care."

To acquaint area residents with Cottonwood's many and varied programs, a variety of special events are scheduled as part of the birthday celebration. These include:

- May 19 through June 2: The Women's Center will hold an education series in the new surgical suit. Topics will include breast care, women's sexuality, menopause and self-esteem and women. The free series will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

- May 21: Tours of the new 12-bed surgical suite in the Center for Women's Health will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Health screenings and educational materials will be part of the event.

- May 26: A "Cholesterol and Your Health" class will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Cholesterol testing will also be available during class, as well as on Monday through Friday in Cottonwood's Mini Lab from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost of the test is $5.

For more information and to pre-register for the classes, call 262-7330.