Block by Block Miracles Happen as TMC zeroes in on raising final $1 million

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By M. Scot Skinner

TMC for Children, fully operational since June, is like a brand-new car in your garage. It’s sleek, clean and jammed with advanced technology and life-saving features. But it’s not really yours until you make the last payment.

The colorful pediatric unit is humming along nicely, tending to the needs of infants, toddlers, teens and their families. But Tucson Medical Center won’t have a clear title until it raises another million bucks.

The capital campaign, which kicked off in November 2009 with a $12.5 million goal, has already raised more than $11 million.

The last million will be somewhat easier to raise than the first million, said Kim Bourn, who chairs the pediatric campaign, dubbed Block by Block, Miracles Happen!

“Now that people can actually see and touch what we’ve established for the community, I think it’s a little more tangible,” she said. “They get it. It’s like when you take out a bank loan. The Foundation has to pay that money back.”

It’s been an intense, all-consuming effort, said Michael J. Duran, chief development officer for the TMC Foundation.

“Raising money for this pediatric expansion has been a singular focus of the foundation since 2009,” said Duran. “We started with new constructions — about 16,000 square feet — and then we went back and renovated the existing unit.”

The result is a cheerful, welcoming place, he said. And TMC for Children is not just for children, of course. Great attention has been paid to the needs of parents and siblings of the young patients, not to mention the needs of all those adults who work in pediatric care.

Although some of us see children as short, adorable versions of adults, pediatric medical care is not akin to grown-up care downsized. Are the needs of a 60-pound child really that much different than a 120-pound adult? Cut the medical recipe in half and you’re good to go, right?

Dr. Moira Richards, TMC’s medical director for children’s services, is too polite to laugh at such nonsense. Instead, she takes her time explaining just how specialized the practice of pediatric medicine has become, and why pediatrics “frankly deserves its own unit.”

“Medically speaking a child is not just a small adult and treatment options can be entirely different for kids than adults,” she said. “Children, for example, respond differently to chemotherapy. The way the liver reacts to medication is different.

“And there’s the fact that the patient is a changing person. What are we going to do that might change the growth and development of an infant or child?”

The pediatric team members are always mindful that they are treating a future adult, said  Richards, who specializes in premature and sick newborns.

The new facilities allow TMC staff to address what Richards calls “the psychosocial needs of growing beings.”

“In young children, play is so important,” she said. “So our specialists work with medical play, which helps explain what it means to have a tube in your stomach. The new facilities give us more room for this sort of thing.”

Because child siblings face their own kind of stress, including fears that they might get really sick, too, TMC for Children makes sure that there are games to play, movies to watch and books to read. The playground, naturally, is state-of-the-art.

“There’s a library with a big reading tree, and the tree is a big hit,” said Bourn. “TMC for Children is a happy place for the families. It’s clean, it’s fun.”

All of the 44 patient rooms are private, and that’s no small thing, she added.

“Health care is a very personal matter and you don’t want people to hear all about your diagnoses and treatments through a curtain and then know that they can tell whoever they want.”

Bourn said she got involved in TMC’s fundraising because her family is passionate about community health care. “It was a no-brainer,” she said.

“Michael Duran recruited me to help lead this effort specifically because all three of our children were born at TMC. Our first we had difficulty with because he was premature.”

The successful campaign was a team effort from the outset, Bourn said.

“Duran’s leadership and his crew at the foundation are just stellar, and we have our volunteer leadership committee as well. It’s not like there were just one or two people. It took a village.”

And Southern Arizonans stepped up to the plate in a big way, said Duran.

“We have been so impressed and humbled by the community’s response,” he said. “We received donations large and small from a really diverse cross-section of the community.”

The TMC family came through, as well.

“The commitment of the TMC staff was just phenomenal,” said Bourn. “You had nurses, anesthesiologists, doctors and other staff holding fundraisers of their own. It illustrates how much these folks who work with children wanted to have something new, that was state of the art, that would serve not only the needs of families and children, but also the needs of the staff.”

But the fund-raising drive is not done yet. If you’d like to help put the last block in the Block by Block campaign, make a donation at TMC Foundation.

M. Scot Skinner, an Arizona native, is an award-winning reporter with more than 25 years of experience in daily journalism. After a long career at the Arizona Daily Star, he is now working for Tucson Medical Center as a freelance writer. He can be reached at mscotskinner@gmail.com.

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