Cigna, March of Dimes and TMC share A Common Thread

008Summertime in not usually when Tucsonans think about needing a knit-cap…unless they are a preemie.

This summer, thousands of cute knit-caps are available for preemies thanks to Cigna volunteers, who donated the caps to TMC during national volunteer week.

In April, Cigna volunteers traveled from Phoenix to deliver nearly 3,000 knit caps for NICU babies at Tucson Medical Center.

The community service project is called A Common Thread, and was founded by Cigna employees as part of Cigna’s national sponsorship of the March of Dimes.

The caps provide warmth for babies, which is particularly important for infants facing serious health challenges. Crocheted in many sizes, the caps can accommodate both premature and full-term babies. In addition, families enjoy the different styles and colors that give the newborns individuality.

014“We are most proud of this project,” said Jessica Celentano, executive director of market development at the Southern Arizona March of Dimes. “Each hat takes about 20 minutes to knit – that’s more than 900 volunteer hours to provide a needed and heartfelt service for families in our region.”

Cigna has been a partner of the March of Dimes and a national sponsor of March for Babies for the past 23 years. Since A Common Thread was founded, more than 12,000 baby hats have been donated to NICUs throughout the country and more than 8,500 have been donated in Arizona.

“It is a priority for Cigna and our employees to meaningfully contribute to local communities,” said Dr. Isaac Martinez, medical director of Cigna HealthCare. He joined Cigna employees Pamela Martin and Theresa Richards to deliver the 2,700+ caps to TMC. “Thanks to the many Cigna volunteers, like Pamela and Theresa, we’re honored to make this contribution to TMC.”

002Celentano, Martin, Richards and Dr. Martinez carried countless blue satchels filled with the donated caps through TMC’s Joel M. Childers Women’s Center. Pat Brown, TMC director of women’s and children’s services, thanked them for the unique caps and their community service.

“We are so thankful for their time and effort,” Brown said. “These caps are wonderful gifts for the babies and their families – and there is enough to last us for years.”

The NICU at TMC treats about 500 infants in the NICU each year, and more than 5,000 babies are born annually at TMC’s labor and delivery department – one of the busiest in the state.  A perfect fit for the sizeable donation.

Learn more about Cigna’s community support efforts like A Common Thread, on their Facebook page or on Twitter @Cigna or #CignaAZ. The March of Dimes website can provide more information about their efforts to help infants and families.



‘Who put this car seat in?’ – Serious wreck tests mom’s skill at installing car seat


Amber Bermudez and her son, Luis

As the mom of a 2 year old, Amber Bermudez is the first to admit that when it came to installing her son’s car seat, she would always have somebody else do it. “I would have other people do it for me because I didn’t want to mess up on something that important,” she said. Then one evening this past summer, she was watching KVOA News 4 Tucson when she saw a Kristi’s Kid’s segment – a car seat call-in event. The program was simple. Call in, schedule a class to attend that weekend and then receive a free seat that’s appropriate for your child. Bermudez figured it was education she needed. “I thought it would be important for me to learn how to install his car seat properly in case something ever happened.”

The program, funded by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, is a partnership between Tucson Police and Tucson Medical Center, in which certified child passenger safety technicians teach the classes and provide age- and weight-appropriate car seats. That weekend, she attended the class, which was taught by TPD Officer Danny Peralta. “I remember Amber. She was taking tons of notes in the back of the class and I told her she really didn’t have to do that,” he laughed. “She insisted that she did.”

One of the biggest things she learned? It’s considered a misuse to use both the seat belt and the LATCH system to install a car seat. It’s considered best practice to use either one or the other – but not both, as it’s never been tested.

She also learned that although her son was approaching his third birthday, it was best to keep him rear-facing if he didn’t exceed the height and weight limit for the seat. Keeping a child rear-facing as long as possible helps protect the child’s head, neck and spine in a crash as they cocoon into their seat, as demonstrated in this video.

Well educated and now confident in her installation skills, Bermudez went home and installed her son’s new car seat.

Fast forward a few months, and the unthinkable happened.

FB_IMG_1448998998538On Dec. 1, Bermudez was driving her car with her mom in the passenger seat, her husband in the back seat on the passenger side, and her son, Luis, snug in his car seat in the middle of the back seat. A pick-up truck ran a red light at 29th and Wilmot causing a T-bone collision. “The impact was so hard, it broke the drive shaft off the truck,” said Bermudez. “The back tires from the truck ran over the front of my car.”

Bermudez and her husband were seriously injured, as was her mom who was trapped against the dash.

Tucson Fire crews responded immediately. “Everything happened so fast and was so surreal, but I do remember the medic asking, ‘who put this car seat in?’ I was scared at first thinking, ‘did I do something wrong?’ Then he told me that it was installed perfectly. He said that when, as first responders, they get called to car accidents where children are involved, the car seat is usually not installed properly, which leads to children being injured. He told me that my son’s car seat took all the impact of the crash. When he told me Luis was OK and that it was only because his car seat was installed properly, I broke down in tears. I was so relieved,” she said.

Luis didn’t even have to go to the hospital for observation. Bermudez, her husband and mom were all transported to the hospital via ambulance while her dad picked up little Luis from the scene.

Bermudez is still nursing an arm injury that may require surgery. Her husband is undergoing surgery for his arm injury and grandma is still suffering from a serious knee injury. But while the physical injuries will take time to heal, and mentally she’s still shaken, Bermudez’s emotional state is solid.

Tucson Police Officer Danny Peralta

Tucson Police Officer Danny Peralta

“I was so relieved that I took the time to get the education and do everything right,” she said, adding that as a mother, she was proud of herself for doing everything she possibly could to protect her baby in a crash. “If I hadn’t taken that class, I’m not sure that my son would be OK today. What Officer Peralta taught me really stuck. And he gave me the confidence to install my son’s car seat for the first time ever. If I hadn’t taken his class, it scares me to think of what may have happened to my son that day.”

TMC offers an assortment of programs for child passenger safety including a car seat loaner program and Children Are Priceless Passengers (CAPP) class, which is held every month in English and Spanish. For just $35, parents can receive life-saving education and an appropriate car seat for their child. TMC also provides free booster seats as part of the Boost Your Booty program.

Additionally, Geico funds a TMC child passenger program, Ride Safe Kids. Classes are held once a month, in English only, where parents can receive education and an appropriate car seat for free. Please call (520) 546-7340 for more information.

Please click here to see KVOA News 4 Tucson’s coverage of the story.

Local fire captain on the mend after catastrophic aneurysm

IMG_0612On March 26, Rural/Metro Fire Captain Eric Cline was celebrating his fourth wedding anniversary with his wife, Risa, when he complained about his head hurting and suddenly collapsed. Cline suffered a brain aneurysm that then caused a stroke. He was rushed to Tucson Medical Center where Kurt Schroeder, M.D., a neurosurgeon from the Center for Neurosciences, helped save his life.

Stephanie Innes from The Arizona Daily Star wrote this story about Cline, the incredible camaraderie displayed by his firefighting family and just how rare this diagnosis is in a young person. Cline, a father of three, is only 40-years-old.

Sam Salzwedel from KVOA News 4 Tucson also aired this story about Captain Cline.

As a Neuroscience Center of Excellence, TMC is nationally recognized for its neurological and stroke care.

Border experience has profound impact on Dr. Eleazar Ley

For Dr. Eleazar Ley, the inspiration to become a doctor stemmed from an experience he was too young to remember. 

Dr. Eleazar Ley Ley Institute of Plastic & Hand Surgery, LLC; Arizona Craniofacial & Pediatric Plastic Surgery

Dr. Eleazar Ley
Ley Institute of Plastic & Hand Surgery, LLC;
Arizona Craniofacial & Pediatric Plastic Surgery

He was born in San Luis, Sonora, a small town just on the other side of the border near Yuma.  His mother is full Chinese; his dad is half Chinese, and half Mexican.  Not long after his birth, Dr. Ley developed some serious medical problems.  The doctors in Mexico did not know how to treat his illness, and therefore were unable to help him.  “My uncle in the U.S. told my parents to take me to Yuma.  But the problem was, my mother didn’t have papers,” explained Dr. Ley. 

His doctor in Mexico wrote a letter, asking the border agents to please allow Dr. Ley’s mother to cross the border so that she could get him the medical treatment he so desperately needed. 

It worked. 

“I often think about what happened, what my parents were dealing with, and the border agent who was kind enough to let my mom across.  If he had turned my mom away, who knows if I would even be here,” he said.  “My parents told me this story, and it really made an impression on me.  Growing up in Mexico, I always thought, ‘I’m going to be a doctor.  I’m going to fix people.”  This became his calling.

And so, he made it happen.

Dr. Ley completed his undergraduate work in the states as a foreign student.  He went back to Mexico for medical school, immigrated to the U.S., and transferred to New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY.  Next stop: Tucson.  “I was lucky to match into the general surgery program at the University of Arizona.”  With a desire to go into plastic surgery, but no training program offered in Arizona, Dr. Ley headed to Salt Lake City, where he completed a fellowship in pediatric craniofacial plastic surgery at Primary Children’s Medical Center. 

From there, he went to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where he received  fellowship training in hand and microsurgery.  “I then went back to Salt Lake City and completed a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Utah,” he said.  He accepted a job there as an academic surgeon, teaching plastic and hand surgery, and while he loved the teaching aspect of it, Utah never really felt like home.  “My wife is from Tucson, and we’re fond of the Old Pueblo.  We moved back to Tucson so that our girls, ages 8 and 10, can be closer to family.  We’re very happy to be back.”

With 14 years of medical school, residency, and three fellowships under his belt, the 40-year-old says he feels like he’s getting his career started late, but he wouldn’t change it one bit.  “I didn’t mean for it to work out this way,” he laughed, referring to having fellowships in three specialties.  “Now that I’m through it, it has made me a much better surgeon.”  That “immigrant drive” as he calls it, endless motivation, and years of hard work got him to where he is today.

He opened the Ley Institute of Plastic & Hand Surgery, LLC and the Arizona Craniofacial & Pediatric Plastic Surgery, located in the TMC Medical Park.  While he spends most of his time there, he also works with some of the residents at the VA Hospital. 

A few times a month, he heads down to Nogales and Douglas for clinics that are held there.  “When I came back to Tucson, I wanted to serve the border community and bring specialized care to these patients so that they didn’t have to seek out this level of care.”  Dr. Ley can speak conversational Cantonese, and is fluent in Spanish, which he says immediately puts his patients at ease.  “They are always so happy that they can speak to me in Spanish.  When I tell them I’m from Mexico, they are relieved that I understand their culture.”

Dr. Ley said heading to Mexico on a humanitarian medical mission is on his bucket list.

“My goal is to provide comprehensive specialty care to patients here in Southern Arizona.  People often think Phoenix is a mecca, but that’s not necessarily true.  Patients can get the same quality of care here in Tucson, and I am especially proud that my pediatric work allows children and their families to get the care they need locally.”

Dr. Ley was featured on KVOA News 4 Tucson about a condition called craniosynostosis.

KVOA News 4 Tucson highlights new hybrid operating rooms

KVOA News 4 Tucson recently aired a story about the two new hybrid operating rooms that will open in TMC’s Orthopaedic and Surgical tower May 6.  The state-of-the art equipment inside the rooms will instantly land Tucson among the best places in the country for vascular disease treatment.


KVOA News 4 Tucson highlights how TMC Mega Raffle will benefit patients

KVOA News 4 Tucson recently aired a story about one of the many services proceeds from TMC’s Mega Raffle may benefit.  The money will be used for programs to improve patient care throughout the hospital, including Women’s Services.  Reporter Ryan Haarer talked with Christina Berry about her experience at TMC.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461