Rear Admiral visits TMC for Children as part of larger engagement tour of Tucson

Honorary Soldier enjoys stories from Rear Admiral MacInnis.jpgSmall patients were wowed by the sheer mass of an aircraft carrier – surprised to hear that it would be the equivalent of a floating city with nearly 5,000 crew members on board, sharing space with aircraft and helicopters.

Rear Admiral Daniel MacInnis was perfectly suited to answer their questions: While participating in the U.S. Navy’s flight program, after all, he landed craft 17 times on each of four carriers during training runs. MacInnis, who also served as a diving officer, deployed to Iraq in 2006 and to Afghanistan in 2013 and has earned several recognitions, including three Meritorious Service Medals.

Rear Admiral MacInnis on tour of TMC for ChildrenA sleight of hand magician, MacInnis entertained youngsters and handed out certificates that dubbed them an “honorary sailor.”

One of 180 rear admirals in the Navy, MacInnis visited TMC’s executive team and TMC for Children as part of a larger two-day tour to share the importance of naval service with city leaders, including civic groups, universities and veterans groups.

“We meet local leaders in cities that are away from fleet-centric areas where people may not have as much information about the importance of the Navy so we can hopefully inspire their support and advocacy,” MacInnis said.

MacInnis noted that 70 percent of the earth is covered with water, 80 percent of the world’s population lives near water and 90 percent of global commerce uses maritime routes. “The Navy is a 24/7, 365-day organization that is here to protect America, preserve our way of life and America’s influence in the world and to deter aggression,” MacInnis explained.

To see more coverage of his visit, please see KGUN’s story. 


Incredible reward at no cost – How cord blood donations are changing lives at TMC

Cord Blood Kristen Wilt

Cord blood donations can enhance and save lives, and do even more – providing donors and their families with the uplifting benefit of knowing their cord blood gift will have a positive impact for years to come.

“My brother-in-law passed away from a rare blood disorder when he was just 19,” said Stephanie Babcock, a mom who recently donated the cord blood from her baby Midori at TMC. “It’s so rewarding to know our donation can save someone like my brother-in-law – we know what it means to that person and their family.”

What is cord blood?

What exactly is cord blood and why is it so beneficial?

“Cord blood is the blood that is left inside the umbilical cord and placenta after a baby is born,” said Kristen Wilt, cord blood coordinator at TMC. “It is so important because it contains blood-forming stem cells that can be used in blood transfusions to heal or repair damaged cells that cause serious diseases.”

Saving and improving lives

Wilt explained cord blood stem cells are used to treat more than 80 life-threatening diseases, which include many forms of cancer, as well as immune and genetic disorders. “Acute myeloid leukemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and sickle cell anemia to name just a few,” Wilt said.

Cord Blood 4Blood transplants can have a significant and permanent effect for individuals facing specific debilitating and severe health challenges, she explained. “By and large, the treatments can cure many diseases or have a significant impact that dramatically improves the quality of life for the recipient.”

How donation works

Wilt said the process is quick, easy, and it is free. “At TMC the mom and family are asked if they would like to donate the cord blood immediately after birth,” explained Wilt. “There is one simple consent form to sign and a health history questionnaire to review and you’re done – you’ve just created a life-saving possibility for someone.”

Participation in the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program is growing, but currently available only in a few Arizona hospitals. “It made a great impression on us that TMC was the only hospital in Southern Arizona who offers cord blood donation,” said donor Babcock. “It can seem like a small thing but has such an incredible impact.”

Cord blood donations from TMC have gone to help patients all over the United States and as far away as Australia.

Safety and anonymity

Donating cord blood poses no risk to the baby or mom because the cord blood is collected after the birth, when the placenta and umbilical cord are no longer needed.

The hospital assigns a number to each donation so that it is received and tracked by the public cord blood bank anonymously.

“We did our research,” said Babcock. “We had no concerns about safety or privacy – TMC made it a simple, easy part of the birthing experience.”

Cord Blood 3

Where it goes and how it helps

For the past four years, TMC has worked with the Arizona Public Cord Blood Program and has provided almost 5,000 cord blood donations.

“Within 48 hours, the cord blood is delivered to the University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank (an FDA-licensed facility), where it is cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen tanks,” said Wilt. “This process conserves the stem cells in the blood for a very long time – donations have been used after 20-25 years.”

The donation becomes part of the national registry managed by NMDP/Be the Match registry. “Worldwide, patients of all ages who are in need can work with the registry to determine if they are a match,” Wilt said.

Why your donation matters, for others and for you

Some moms and families decide to save and privately store their baby’s cord blood. However, the cryopreservation process and on-going storage fees can be cost-prohibitive. “If cord blood is not donated, it is disposed of as medical waste – and it is truly a waste,” said Wilt.

Donating cord blood has such significance because finding a match can be very difficult. “About 70 percent of people in need are not able to find a match from their family,” Wilt said. “More cord blood donations means a greater chance that someone in need will find a match.”

For Babcock, making the donation was more than a fulfilling gesture. “It’s not a big sacrifice, and it changes your life just knowing that you could save an adult or child who is fighting a deadly disease.”

Cord Blood 1For more information about cord blood donations, contact Kristen Wilt at (520) 324-6210 or visit the Save the Cord Foundation website.

San Diego Zoo Kids channel begins broadcasting at TMC and Ronald McDonald House Charities

San Diego Zoo Kids Debra EricksonYoung patients, their families and invited guests were treated to a visit with some amazing animal ambassadors—including a fennec fox, a ferret, a blue-tongued skink and a snake from Reid Park Zoo—at a gathering at Tucson Medical Center this morning.

The special event was held to announce the arrival of San Diego Zoo Kids, a closed-circuit television channel, at TMC and Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

San Diego Zoo Kids is an innovative television channel with programs produced primarily for medical facilities that serve pediatric patients and their families.

The creation and development of the channel has been funded by businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford.

In 2017, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) awarded San Diego Zoo Global an outstanding Museums for America Grant to bring San Diego Zoo Kids to 75 children’s hospitals and Ronald McDonald House Charities across the nation over the next three years.

San Diego Zoo Kids FoxThe generous grant from IMLS has made the channel available on television monitors in every patient room at Tucson Medical Center and in the children’s play area at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

San Diego Zoo Kids’ programming offers family friendly, animal-oriented stories that are both entertaining and educational.

“TMC is thrilled to partner with the San Diego Zoo to bring to our patients a little more of what’s magical and wonderful in the world at a time when they’re not feeling their best,” said Judy Rich, TMC president and CEO.

From TMC’s long-standing support of Reid Park Zoo to its robust pet therapy program, Rich noted that the educational and entertaining channel builds on the work TMC is already doing. “This effort helps us in supporting families, offering a child-friendly environment and fostering an appreciation of the healing qualities of animals and nature.”

The channel also features animal stories from Reid Park Zoo. “We are excited to be collaborating with San Diego Zoo Global, TMC and Ronald McDonald House Charities to share our passion for animal conservation and education,” said Nancy Kluge, president, Reid Park Zoological Society. “We hope this glimpse into the lives of the animals at Reid Park Zoo will bring excitement and joy into the lives of those in our community who might not be able to visit the Zoo.”

The service is also making its debut at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

San Diego Zoo Frenetic Fox“We are so pleased to partner with the San Diego Zoo, Tucson Medical Center and Reid Park Zoo on this entertaining and educational program,” said Kate Jensen, president and CEO of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona.

“One of our goals is to create a sense of normalcy for children and families, even while they are going through very difficult times,” said Jensen. “The San Diego Zoo Kids channel has become a very popular diversion. It is so well produced, educational and entertaining. We are grateful for this wonderful contribution from the San Diego Zoo.”

The San Diego Zoo Kids channel offers up-close video encounters with animals, stories about caring for animals, quizzes about animals and habitats, and a wide variety of short video vignettes hosted by San Diego Zoo Global ambassador Rick Schwartz and San Diego Zoo Kids host Olivia Degn.

Viewers can see best-of videos from the San Diego Zoo’s famous Panda Cam and other online cameras, as well as content from other zoos across the world.

San Diego Zoo Kids Judy Rich“We continue to be humbled by the healing properties of San Diego Zoo Kids,” said Debra Erickson, director of communications, San Diego Zoo Global. “Parents and caregivers share that the channel, which has no commercials or inappropriate content, not only calms children but makes them happy.”

San Diego Zoo Kids debuted in 2013 at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. Since then, it has been installed in 137 children’s hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses, pediatric wards and children’s hospice centers across the U.S., in 33 states and the District of Columbia; and in facilities in Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan and Singapore.

For further information about San Diego Zoo Kids, visit their website. And don’t forget to have a peek at all the fun happening locally at the Reid Park Zoo.

For more information about the Ronald McDonald House visit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona website or call (520) 326-0060.

Mission Moments: Inspired by a 6 year old to first assume good intentions

Family of four standing in front of a bay

The call was enough to make a parent’s heart drop: Come to the school now. Your daughter may have to go to the Emergency Department.

Sanjay Timbadia, Tucson Medical Center’s Laboratory manager, rushed to school to find his first-grade daughter’s head bandaged with blood in her hair and on her dress.

A child had been throwing rocks on the playground and one of them had struck his daughter in the head while she played on the monkey bars. There wasn’t any malice: It was just an accident.

It was later, after she had been treated at the TMC Pediatric Emergency Department, that the little girl said something that was a poignant reminder for her father.

“That boy that threw the rock: I think he was just trying to get it out of the playground so that no one would trip on it,” she said.

It was a moment for pride and reflection, Timbadia said, and he shared the story with his team as they entered the holiday season.

“She has reminded us of an amazing lesson: to always assume positive intent first,” Timbadia said.

The lesson can be applied in the lab, which is a busy place that processes more than 2 million tests every year. It can also just as importantly be applied in everyday life as a balm against the divisions that can cause cultural and political divides – and it’s even stronger when peppered with gratitude, he noted.

“If I’m delayed because I’m in traffic or if I get a flat tire, I just try to remember that at least I have a car to take me places because there are many others who are waiting for a bus in the summer heat,” Timbadia said. “And if someone gets in front of me and drives slowly, you never know: Maybe that person just prevented me from getting into an accident.

“I think like anything else, assuming positive intent and being grateful is something we learn, and it’s also something that gets stronger with practice. At TMC, we are committed to being here to make things better for our patients and our community when they need us – and we approach that work with positive intent.”

Tucson Medical Center earlier this year adopted a new mission statement. To celebrate, we will share an ongoing series of “mission moments.”

What are mission moments? They aren’t necessarily dramatic stories of heroism, although our medical staff saves lives every day. These are moments that breathe life into words – moments that are profound or powerful or touching and that remind us why we do the work we do. Hundreds of these reminders happen every day. Thank you for letting us share some with you.

Do you have a TMC mission moment you’d like to share? Send it to

‘Popcorn Kid’ retiring after singlehandedly raising $51k for kids through sales

DOROTHYLongtime employee, Dorothy “Popcorn Kid” Lietha, who is retiring after 43 years, made a difference kernel by kernel.

Lietha, who has worked a variety of jobs but most recently was part of the Wellness department’s efforts in the employee gym, is probably best known for her commitment to the children of Southern Arizona.

Since the early days of TMC’s relationship with Children’s Miracle Network, Lietha has sold popcorn — first for 25 cents a bag, and now 50 cents. Those quarters have added up. The TMC Foundation estimates that she has raised more than $51,000 to benefit area children.

“Dorothy embodies the spirit of this organization because of her generosity and her deep love of this community,” said Michael Duran, vice president and chief development officer. “We can each make a profound difference just by leveraging our individual strengths and passions – and for that, Dorothy is an inspiration.”

If you’d like to honor Dorothy and her commitment to children, consider making an online gift in her name for Children’s Services via the TMC Foundation.

Temps are rising and the pool is beckoning – do you know your water safety?

Pool Safety 3Is it hot enough yet? With Tucson temperatures exceeding 115 degrees for three straight days, many families will be heading for the pool this weekend.

It’s no surprise why swimming is a summer favorite. Parents get a chance to cool-off, kids max out on fun and families make memories.

With the summertime exuberance of visiting, splashing and playing, it can be easy for all to forget important safety rules. This is serious because Arizona has the second highest number of child drownings in the United States.

Child drowning is tragic but preventable. Safe Kids Pima County Coordinator Jessica Mitchell works with community partners to provide helpful tips and education to prevent childhood drowning. She provided us important water safety standards every
parent should know.

It’s as easy as ABC

A = Adult supervision B = Barriers around pools, spas and hot tubs C = Coast Guard approved life vest and life-saving CPR classes

My kids love playing in the pool – what are the things to watch out for?

  • Active supervision is a must. Provide active supervision without any distractions – even if other adults are present and many kids are in the pool. They call drowning the “silent killer” because a drowning child can’t call for help.
  • Infants and toddlers should stay within an arm’s reach of an adult.
  • Don’t rely on swimming aids such as water wings and pool noodles. They are fun, but may not prevent drowning.
  • When finished, remove all toys from the pool. This can tempt children to go for the toys later, increasing the risk of them falling in and drowning.
  • Barriers should be in place to keep children from entering the pool on their own. Alarms on doors and pool fences with self-closing gates also helps to keep kids safe.
  • Always keep a phone nearby so that you can call 911 in the case of an emergency.
  • Empty kiddie pools and turn them upside down when finished. Tragedies have happened in just a few inches of water.

Pool Safety 2
What swimming rules should I set for my children?

  • Only swim if an adult is a present.
  • Do not dive in shallow areas of the pool (or the entire pool if it is not deep enough for diving).
  • Don’t push or jump on others.
  • Don’t go swimming during thunder/lightning storms.

My kids have already taken swimming lessons, so I probably don’t need to watch them as much, right?

While we encourage swimming lessons, children should not be swimming alone even if they are good swimmers. It takes multiple lessons before a child learns how to swim effectively and even then, there should still be active supervision by an adult.

How do I rescue a child I think might be drowning?

  • Take the child out of the water
  • If you are alone, call 911 and begin CPR. Starting CPR immediately is the most important thing you can do to prevent a child from dying.
  • If you are not alone, begin CPR and ask someone to call 911.
  • Check for breathing and responsiveness. Place your ear near the child’s mouth and nose to see if you feel air on your cheek? Determine if the child’s chest is moving and call the child’s name to see if he or she responds.

Should I be CPR certified?

Anyone who routinely supervises children around water should get CPR certified. The certification courses are provided by many community organizations, including the American Red Cross.

It sounds like there is a lot to prepare for – can the water still be safe and fun for my family?

Absolutely! Swimming can be great family fun. Make sure you take the necessary precautions, always supervise swimming children and that someone in the family has taken CPR classes.

Visit our website for more safety tips and information.



UFC champion Frank Shamrock visits TMC for Children patients

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Frank ‘The Legend’ Shamrock, retired four-time undefeated UFC Middleweight (Light Heavyweight) Champion, met with patients and families at TMC for Children as part of a Southern Arizona visit.

He arrived around noon and went from room-to-room visiting patients and their families who were delighted to see him.

Shamrock will make several appearances in Sierra Vista over the weekend.

Tucson Firefighters make a Santa-sized toy delivery to TMC for Children

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They’re not dressed in your typical Santa suits, but Tucson firefighters played St. Nick today, dropping off a new toy chest for TMC for Children chock-full of toys for pint-sized patients.

The chest – which looks like a mini fire truck – provides toys to children who are undergoing medical procedures or who just need a little boost during their stay.

“It is our pleasure to be able to partner with TMC for Children,” said Joe Gulotta, Tucson Fire Department assistant chief. “Day in and day out, there are clinical folks who work hard to get these children better. Our hope is that this is another resource for them – that these toys bring a smile to a child who is having a tough time. Even if it’s for one minute out of their day, we want to take their mind off the problems they’re experiencing. We want to give them something else to focus their attention on other than the reason they’re in the hospital.”

Helping out children in need is in line with what these first responders do every day. Gulotta adds that TFD has teddy bears stocked on their fire trucks in the event they encounter a child on scene who needs to be comforted. “We meet children who have been in bad accidents or experienced a fire at their home. Or maybe their parent is sick and they’re scared about what’s happening. It’s amazing how a simple teddy bear can re-direct their attention and give them something else to think about.”

Gulotta says TFD has been fortunate to have such great sponsors who support the project wholeheartedly including the Tucson Firefighters Association, Old Pueblo Rotary Club as well as two local businesses, Mr. Janitor and Signs Now Tucson.

Please click here to see news coverage from Tucson News Now.
Please click here to see news coverage from KVOA News 4 Tucson.

Thousands of twinkle lights make the TMC campus sparkle for the holidays

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It’s not quite the Winterhaven Festival of Lights, but the TMC campus is impressively festive during this holiday season! Tens of thousands of twinkle lights and other decorations, including more than 50 elf and snowmen cutouts, have been used to illuminate and adorn the 114 acres the hospital sits on.

“It’s an enormous undertaking,” said Richard Parker, director of TMC Facilities and Plant Services. “We have an enthusiastic team made up of employees from many different facilities crews who commit themselves every year to brightening the holidays for patients, visitors and staff. In order to get it all done, oftentimes they logged hours when most of us were still asleep, and even came in on their weekends in order to decorate in a discreet way that didn’t impact the campus during regular business hours.”

“The joy these decorations bring to everyone who visits or works at TMC is the kind of thing you just can’t put a price tag on,” said TMC carpenter Dan Bittner. “It’s worth every minute and every dime we spent putting it all together. The enthusiasm and the positive reactions from people on campus make it well worth the effort. It’s a pleasure to see how people enjoy our work.”

Last year, TMC for Children patients and their siblings were alerted via closed-circuit television that Santa had landed on TMC’s roof as part of his test flight a few days before Christmas. The children headed to a nearby courtyard where they could visit with Santa, eat cookies, listen to stories and enjoy enchanted snowfall. We’ll have to see if the jolly old elf pays TMC for Children a visit again this year…

Phoenix Children’s now providing pediatric intensive care, hospitalist coverage for TMC for Children

TMC for Children patient careTucson Arizona, June 8 — Phoenix Children’s Hospital, one of the largest children’s hospitals in the country with a staff of nearly 1,000 pediatric specialists working across more than 75 pediatric subspecialties, has assumed coverage for intensive care and hospitalist services for TMC for Children. The transition, which began on June 3, was a smooth handoff from the long-standing service by University Physicians Healthcare.

“Not only does this relationship ensure stable, predictableTMC for Children 4C coverage, but Phoenix Children’s has a
philosophy that fits very well with our patient-centered approach,” said Brooke Casebolt, a registered nurse and the director of patient care services at TMC for Children. “Phoenix Children’s emphasizes daily rounds and family engagement in its approach, and has a clear understanding of the need to draw from multiple disciplines in providing the best care for the children and families we serve.

PCH_hospital_stk_PMS 2New to Tucson are several members of the Phoenix Children’s staff, who are based in this community and call TMC their hospital home. They include, Dr. Heather Hanley, medical director for the pediatric intensive care unit and Dr. Kevin Carter, medical director for pediatric hospitalists.

“While Phoenix Children’s shares our philosophy that care provided closest to home is preferable whenever possible,  this relationship will allow TMC to explore new opportunities to further build the pediatrics program,” said TMC Chief Medical Officer Rick Anderson, noting Phoenix Children’s will augment specialty services where gaps might exist.

Phoenix Children’s joins a team of other long-standing pediatric providers on campus, with Pediatrix TCPS Logoproviding medical coverage to TMC’s newborn intensive care unit. Pediatric specialty coverage is provided by Tucson Community Pediatric Specialists, a community-based, accessible and a valuable part of the TMC for Children care team. Tucson Community Pediatric Specialists include physicians who specialize in anesthesiology, cardiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, ENT, neonatology, neurology, ophthalmology, oral surgery/dentistry, orthopedics, plastic surgery, pulmonology, radiology, surgery and urology.

New app prepares children and families for their visit to TMC for Children

KidSpeak Logo med A new child-friendly app lets children and families become familiar with Tucson Medical Center facilities as well as understand the complicated medical terminology that doctors and nurses use. KidSpeak is designed to help promote a positive health care experience for children and their families.

“Here at TMC for Children, our goal is always to provide the best care for any patient and family that walks through our doors,” said Heather Roberts, Child Life supervisor. “KidSpeak is an amazing app with a lot to offer the children and families of Tucson.”

The app includes virtual tours allowing children to see ahead of time the many different areas of the hospital to reduce anxiety during their stay. A glossary of terms is available to help children make sense of complicated hospital terminology.

Children can then take it to a drawing board that features different organ systems of the human body that doctors, child life specialists and others can use. The drawing board is designed to help kids understand the reason for their illness or hospitalization, their diagnosis and treatment.

“This can reduce kids’ anxiety”, said Roberts, “and help them feel more comfortable during a stay.”

KidSpeak is a free app available in the Apple and Android app stores. Funding was made possible through the TMC Foundation and Children’s Miracle Network.

Local firefighters spread Christmas kindness at TMC for Children

FF Peds Christmas 018

Rural/Metro firefighters
Station 73

They weren’t dressed in your traditional Santa suits, but a group of Rural/Metro firefighters played St. Nick at TMC for Children. 

The guys from Station 73 paid a visit to our pediatric patients to hand out some adorable teddy bear stuffed stockings that were handmade by the residents at Strauss Manor.  They also gave each child a copy of the book Born to Wear Blue, written by local author Patty Vallance about children who dream about becoming firefighters when they grow up. 

Special thanks to Patty Vallance, the Greater Tucson Fire Foundation, Strauss Manor and Rural/Metro Fire for bringing a little Christmas cheer to these children!   

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Rob Moon hands a stocking to 5-year-old Adacelie

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Rob Moon hands a stocking to 5-year-old Adacelie

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Grant Cesarek chats with Jayden just as the 6-year-old is happily on his way home

Rural/Metro Firefighter/Paramedic Captain Grant Cesarek chats with Jayden just as the 6-year-old is happily on his way home

Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon raises more than $250,000!

Thank you  Southern Arizona!

Thank you
Southern Arizona!

The 10th annual Children’s Miracle Network Radiothon for TMC for Children has wrapped up! 

We couldn’t have done it without you, Southern Arizona!  Thank you to the folks at 949 MIXfm, including Bobby Rich, Mrs. Grant and Greg Curtis.  They powered on for two solid days, broadcasting live from the lobby of our Pediatric Emergency Department to help us raise $250,360 for local children. 
Every penny stays here in our community, providing life-saving equipment and therapy to children who depend on it.  Also, big thanks to MIXfm listeners who called in pledges and Children’s Miracle Network sponsors who made this year’s Radiothon such a success. 
We appreciate all the families who came in and shared their stories on the air, as well as the countless volunteers who answered phones, and the incredible amount of people who worked behind the scenes to make this possible.
If you didn’t get a chance to donate, there’s still time to help the children of Southern Arizona by clicking here
Remember – 100% of the proceeds stay right here in Southern Arizona at TMC for Children.

Serving up a side of kindness: TMC for Children patients thankful for tower of toys

Employees from Ventana Medical Systems delivered more than 200 Lego® sets to TMC for Children

Employees from Ventana Medical Systems delivered more than 200 Lego® sets to TMC for Children

During the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving week, employees from Ventana Medical Systems carved out an afternoon to bring more than 200 Lego® sets to deserving little patients in TMC for Children as part of Children’s Miracle Network.  It didn’t take long for kids to emerge from their hospital rooms, and gaze at the stash of Lego® sets before picking the “perfect” one that they could take home. 

Ventana employees collected Lego® sets since the beginning of October.  Ventana President and CEO Mara G. Aspinall personally helped with the delivery, and TMC President and CEO Judy Rich accepted the donation. 

Cody Warren

Cody Warren

But it was 4-year-old Cody Warren who stole the show. 

He picked out a Lego® Star Wars set for himself, and a Lego® Friends set for his sister, who was sleeping in her hospital room.

“We were thrilled when we learned about the Lego® drive that was organized for TMC for Children, Children’s Miracle Network,” said Rich. “It is so important for our young patients to have visits from caring people while they are in the hospital. It helps lift their spirits, which aids in the healing process, and having a new toy to play with provides a distraction that helps them focus on something other than the reason they’re here.”

Selena Gilley (in pink) plays with her new Lego® set

Selena Gilley (in pink) plays with her new Lego® set

That was evidenced just a few minutes after the event, when 8-year-old patient Selena Gilley was hard at work in her hospital room diligently following the directions to create her masterpiece.

“Ventana prides itself on being true to our mission to improve the lives of patients,” said Aspinall. “Having the opportunity to meet these young patients in our community and share a toy to help lift their thoughts and spirits, gives me and all Ventana employees great joy.”

All of us at TMC would like to express our thanks to the Ventana employees for their generosity towards our patients.

Please click here to see KGUN 9 On Your Side’s coverage.
Please click here to see the story posted on KOLD’s website.

TMC President & CEO Judy Rich poses with Ventana President & CEO Mara Aspinlall, along with employees from both companies

TMC President & CEO Judy Rich poses with Ventana President & CEO Mara Aspinlall, along with employees from both companies

Pint-sized patients receive uplifting visit from local heroes

Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello and Firefighter/Paramedic Sheri Wenzel pose with a welcome sign made by TMC's Child Life Specialists

Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello and Firefighter/Paramedic Sheri Wenzel pose with a welcome sign made by TMC’s Child Life Specialists

It was all treats, and no tricks inside TMC for Children, as firefighters from the Old Pueblo Firefighting Association (OPFFA) paid a visit to some of TMC’s youngest patients.

Firefighter/Paramedics Sheri Wenzel and Mike Crain, along with Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello, were fresh off a 24-hour shift when they arrived to spend time with children who were eagerly awaiting their visit. 

Carlos Bustos, age 2

Carlos Bustos, age 2

“As first responders, we usually just transport children to the hospital, and it’s not very often that we get to actually see the hospital care they receive.  This is a great experience for us, and it’s our pleasure to be able to spend time with these deserving kids,” said Wenzel.

The firefighters went from room to room, giving each child a copy of Born to Wear Blue, a children’s book that was written by Tucson author Patty Vallance, along with a fire helmet and a pencil. 

Some patients, like 2-year-old Carlos Bustos, couldn’t wait for the crew to come to him, and instead decided to bolt out into the hallway to meet them.  He couldn’t get his helmet on fast enough.

The firefighters visit with Eduardo Armenta, age 11

The firefighters visit with
Eduardo Armenta, age 11

Eleven-year-old Eduardo Armenta was especially jazzed about the visit, and proudly communicated his knowledge of fire safety with the crew.  “If you are in a smoky house, get low to the floor, and get out.  Before you open any door, feel it first, and make sure it’s not hot,” he said.

Children were then invited to gather under the tree where Sicurello read the book aloud as children and their parents followed along.

“It’s really important for these children to have visitors when they’re in the hospital,” said Nikki Wells, TMC Child Life Specialist.  “It helps break up the monotony of their day, and really gives them something to look forward to – which is such an important part of the healing process.”

Firefighter/Paramedics Sheri Wenzel and Mike Crain, along with Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello

Firefighter/Paramedics Sheri Wenzel and Mike Crain, along with Firefighter/EMT Sean Sicurello

The firefighters also spent some time touring the facility in order to learn more about what their fundraising efforts will benefit.  OPFFA is currently selling a 2014 calendar in which a portion of the proceeds go to Children’s Miracle Network, TMC for Children. 

Children’s Miracle Network, TMC for Children is grateful for the various fundraising efforts carried out by individuals and businesses in the Tucson community.

Pint-sized patients receive an inspirational visit from a singing sensation

Pia Toscano visits TMC for Children 058TMC for Children had a warm welcome for singing sensation Pia Toscano. 

Toscano is in Tucson to perform with Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks at Divas in the Desert, the 2013 Gala held by the American Cancer Society, which is sponsored by TMC.  “I’m so in awe of both of them.  I’m thrilled and humbled to be a part of this event.  They are two very powerful women who have been through so much, yet are incredible,” Toscano said.  

Toscano made a name for herself as one of American Idol’s Season 10 frontrunners thanks to her powerhouse vocal ability.  She secured a spot in the Top 9, when she was suddenly eliminated – a move that shocked many fans. 

When Toscano was approached about performing at Divas in the Desert, she says she jumped at the opportunity.  The American Cancer Society is an organization she has always been passionate about.  “This is something that’s very close to home for me.  Some of my family members have had cancer, and one of my mentors passed away from cancer.  It has deeply affected my life.  I try to be a part of the American Cancer Society in any way possible,” she said.

Pia Toscano visits TMC for Children 038Toscano enjoyed visiting with patients and their families – chatting, laughing and reading books.  “Children are so inspiring,” she said.  “They’re smiling and happy, no matter what’s going on in their life.  It really puts your life into perspective.  I know that just making them smile is such an important part of the healing process. ”

Toscano’s debut album is set for release later this year.

TMC Pediatric Emergency Department Returns Home Oct. 2

On Oct. 2, the TMC Pediatric Emergency Department will return to its original location near regular Emergency – where it first opened on Dec. 1, 2001.  The department was originally moved to make way for construction of the new TMC Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower. Over the last several months, crews have taken the opportunity to give the department a face-lift, adding new flooring and paint.

The newly reopened department will have a dedicated arrival desk for children. There, a registration associate will ask for their name, date-of-birth and chief complaint. A pediatric nurse will be sitting in that area also to monitor the lobby and visualize children arriving.  After check in, patients will be taken to the triage area.

As always, 15 beds are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with practitioners trained in pediatric and emergency medicine.

Costco Wraps Up Children’s Miracle Network Campaign

Southern Arizona Costco stores raised more than $102,000 during this year’s campaign for to benefit Children’s Miracle Network.

With every dollar raised in Southern Arizona staying here to benefit local programs for the littlest and most vulnerable among us, the resources help provide life-saving equipment and vital health services for children served at TMC for Children.

Tucson Medical Center has been part of Children’s Miracle Network for nearly 30 years.

“As the biggest warehouse club in the country, Costco’s compassion is matched only by the size of its warehouses,” said Erika Grasse, the director of Children’s Miracle Network. In May, Costco participates in a month-long miracle balloon campaign at all of its warehouses in the United States and Canada, as well as in other creative fundraising efforts, such as an annual tea, shown here.

“We are grateful for the dedication Costco employees showed, as well as for the generosity of its members in supporting our efforts to care for children,” she said.

Headquartered near Seattle, Costco Wholesale has raised more than $137 million for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals since becoming a sponsor in 1988.

This year’s gift will help support the Block By Block, Miracles Happen capital campaign, which funded a $12.5 million renovation and expansion of TMC for Children that included private rooms, state-of-the-art equipment and a friendly environment for kids.

Vonnie Steed, the regional marketing manager for Costco, said the company supports the mission of children’s hospitals.

“We are all touched by what they do and what they offer families,” Steed said, noting hospitals provide a safety net for families most in need.

“Our employees have really embraced it and every year, we just keep doing better and better. It just goes to show what you can accomplish if you’re passionate about something,” she said.

Mayor Rothschild Shares Ideals of Cooperation and Compassion

Our friends at TMC for Children have been having fun this week with Fathers Read. This morning, the mayor shared his love of reading with our patients:

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild shared a message of cooperation at Tucson Medical Center’s pediatric unit Tuesday morning.

Rothschild, the father of three adult children himself, hosted storytime at TMC for Children as part of the nonprofit hospital’s Fathers Read program, designed to encourage men to become more directly involved in their children’s education.

Read more at Mayor Rothschild Shares Ideals of Cooperation and Compassion.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor is scheduled to visit the unit tomorrow. The Fathers Read series culminates at a public reading event where Pima County Supervisor Ray Carroll joins the Dune Sea Garrison (Star Wars characters) this Saturday, 2:30-4 p.m., in the TMC Marshall Conference Center. Dads are encouraged to bring their children, as well as their favorite books for story time. Details here.

Cyclists detour into Pediatrics

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The Optum Professional Cycling team took a detour from training for a big race to bring out the smiles of the kiddos at TMC for Children.

With the 30-mile Old Pueblo Grand Prix coming up Saturday, the six-member team signed T-shirts, gave out baseball caps and shared stories with children throughout the Pediatric unit.

The cyclists – Mike Friedman, Scott Zwizanski, Ian Moir, Cody O’Reilly, Anna Barensfeld and Leah Kirchmann – shared stories of perseverance through adversity.

“When we race, sometimes we get injured or get sick or crash, and we have to fight through it and keep our eyes on the prize,” Barensfeld said. “We know that racing is different from the fight that these kids are going through, but we thought maybe just talking about how to approach adversity might help.”

The group also spoke about the importance of good nutrition and bicycle safety.

Friedman told kids it was important to wear a bike helmet, even for short distances. Pointing at his head, the 29-year-old said, “This thing is actually really soft, even though it seems hard.”

Friedman shared his experience riding in a 207-mile race that took more than eight hours to finish and shared the most unexpected food he ever ate while racing: baked potatoes dressed with olive oil and parmesan cheese.

They also shared their stories of traveling all over the world for their careers. The team might be based in Minnesota, but Zwizanski said cycling has brought him to every continent.

The bicycles – light enough to lift with one hand and carrying a price tag in excess of $5,000 – were a big hit, too, particularly when the racers popped the wheels off with a quick tug.

When one patient said she liked to ride bicycles, but hadn’t been able to of late, the team reassured her. “You’ll get back to it,” O’Reilly said.

Mesquite Pediatrics adds twist to holiday gift exchange

Local pediatricians Drs. Mary Cochran, Jeff Couchman and Susan McMahon along with their staff at Mesquite Pediatrics wanted to have a fun holiday party while supporting kids who find themselves patients at the hospital. Everyone at the office drew names. Then, each person had to find a gift that their chosen person would have wanted if still a child.

During their holiday party, they all opened their gifts. Staff members were delighted. In a nod to his “peg” leg (it’s in a cast), Dr. Couchman received a pirate Lego set. Then, in a heartwarming twist to the old gift exchange, the unopened toys were donated as part of the toy drive for TMC’s Andrea’s Closet.

Congratulations to all the folks at Mesquite Pediatrics for such a creative way to have fun and share in the spirit of the season!


Hundreds of watts of smile power from Tucson kids

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Tucson children make us smile! When TMC for Children issued a call for photos of your smiling children, we had a tremendous response. We took the photos in this slideshow and created a special collage in the shape of the TMC for Children logo!

The collage goes up Dec. 12 on billboards around town. Click Yellow Map for locations of the yellow-background billboard and click Green Map for the green one.

Erica Ruiz, a nurse in TMC’s Labor and Delivery unit, was selected in a drawing to receive a Share Your Smiles family portrait photo package, donated by Braindance Productions. Hailey, 3, and Zoey, 6 months, are featured on  the billboard. The Ruiz’s are especially excited about the opportunity for a family portrait session as Erica’s husband, Jose, just returned from deployment in Greece.

Unfortunately, low quality or lack of a photo release prevented us from using a handful of photos. We regret that we not able to use them all, since every child’s smile is a joy worth sharing.

The map with the billboard locations is also available on the TMC website.

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

92.9 The Mountain is Covered with Miracles

We wrapped up our three-day Radiothon with Jennie & Chris of 92.9 The Mountain with pledges and donations of $207,811.08 for the Children’s Miracle Network.

Baby Ryan blows a kiss

(Photo: Baby Ryan blows a kiss to thank all of the people who made miracles happen this week.)

Marylou Fragomeni, manager, pediatric therapies, thanked Jennie and Chris and all of the people who allow her to care for the children of Southern Arizona. Her team cares for children everyday, but they couldn’t do it without the support of the people who donated this week.

You heard the CMN Radiothon live over 92.9 The Mountain from the lobby outside TMC’s Pediatric Emergency Department, starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, through this afternoon. We laughed, we cried, we have been inspired by the strength of families facing extraordinary challenges.

Children emptied their piggybanks, employees dug deep to give, 92.9 The Mountain listeners called in donations, local businesses stepped up. And, Jim Click extended everyone’s donation by matching donations up to $25,000.

So many individuals, organizations and businesses volunteered to answer phone calls and collect donations – and thanks to them and our generous community, TMC’s children’s programs will continue to thrive.

From your social media team, thank you for your engagement. Thank you for making miracles happen!

Supporters can continue to donate, by contacting the TMC Foundation at 324-5982 or


9 months and thriving

Cheryl Allred holding her 9-month-old son, Ryan, talk with Jennie Grabel,  during the Mountain of Miracles radiothon.

Ryan has already had seven blood transfusions and six surgeries in his short life.

TMC’s Top-Level NICU Combines State-of-the-Art Care with Compassion

Newborn Intensive Care

TMC’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit nurses provide expert and complex care to critically ill infants. We nurture them to optimize their growth and development, in collaboration with the entire team of physicians, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and social workers. Each day we use our commitment, passion and expert skills to make a difference for our patients and their families.

Tucson Medical Center’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit is a highly skilled 42-bed Level III nursery with an all-RN staff. The NICU supports Labor and Delivery with a team that responds to all high-risk deliveries, and cares primarily for premature, sick and surgical newborns. The unit operates fully, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The NICU is a quiet environment, conducive to developmental growth.

  • 24-hour Neonatology Coverage – TMC is one of the few institutions in this region providing around-the-clock coverage by neonatologists* – physicians who specialize in the care of premature and ill newborns.
  • NICU Educator – The NICU educator provides training in CPR and monitors for all families who meet criteria for this service. The educator also provides current, up-to-date education for the NICU staff.
  • Infant Development Specialist – The NICU has a highly trained Infant Development Specialist who provides optimum developmental intervention to all high-risk infants.
  • Case Manager/Discharge Planner – The NICU has a full-time case manager and discharge planner to facilitate a smooth discharge.
  • Social Service – The NICU has a full-time social worker to provide support to all families in the NICU.

The “House” that CMN Built

Dedicated to Children and Families

TMC for Children and the new pediatric medical/surgical unit consists of 44 private rooms in an environment that feels more like a home than a hospital.

The unit offers kids a place to read, watch television or play video games outside of their room. And children who are well enough can play outside in a secure playground.

The new, private patient rooms have plenty of room for the whole family.

We integrate patient and family centered care into all aspects of the hospital experience.

TMC for Children Highlights:

  • A Pediatric Emergency Department open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Inpatient and Ambulatory Surgery Programs
  • Dedicated Pediatric Anesthesiologists
  • Pediatric and Newborn Intensive Care
  • Child-Life Specialists
  • The region’s only pediatric Gastrointestinal Laboratory
  • Pediatric Palliative Care
  • Pediatric Hospice Program
  • Children’s Therapy Services
  • Desert Kids Safety Program

Tucson Businesses Making Miracles for Kids #tucsoncmn

TMC for Children benefits from the generosity of Southern Arizona businesses committed to giving back to the community. It’s that spirit of engagement that makes Tucson special and makes a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our community.

During this year’s Radiothon, we thank Brio Tuscan Grille, Community  Partnerships of Southern Arizona, National Bank of Arizona, Desert Diamond Casino, Vantage West Credit Union, Fry’s Food and Drug, Pizza Hut and Wingstop, Jack-in-the-Box, University of Phoenix, United Healthcare, Geico, Walmart and, of course, 92.9 The Mountain and Clear Channel.

Together, we make miracles happen! Stop by these businesses this week and say thanks!

Devoted employee raises more than $30K for CMN, a quarter or two at a time

Dorothy Leitha has been part of TMC for 37 years.

Not only has she been a vital member of the organization, starting off as a housekeeper and moving over to Food Service, she has contributed significantly to Children’s Miracle Network since its inception.

For more than 25 years, in the months leading up to the annual telethon, Dorothy has sold bags of popcorn to TMC staff and donated all of the proceeds to CMN.

Her total popcorn sales, along with a few raffles and now some Dairy Queen Dilly bar sales, has brought in some $30,000 for Tucson’s children. At 25 cents a bag, that’s more than a few pecks of popped corn. And only recently was she convinced to bump up the price to 50 cents.

Her dedication to the children of Tucson, metered out bag by bag, shows how philanthropy can make a big difference at any level of giving.

Dorothy shows that you don’t have to wealthy or powerful to be a philanthropist. Indeed, it’s the effort and the commitment of people like Dorothy that can remind us of the literal definition of philanthropy – the love of mankind.

Dorothy “The Popcorn Kid” Lietha raises more than $2,300

What is Children’s Miracle Network?

Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds for, and awareness of, children’s hospitals across the country. Since its founding in 1983, Children’s Miracle Network to date has raised more than $3.4 billion in support of these hospitals.

This national charitable effort is unique in that 100 percent of the money raised will stay in the local community to support its own children’s hospital, which means Tucson Medical Center receives all of the funds raised in Southern Arizona.

Tucson Medical Center has been a part of Children’s Miracle Network since 1984, raising more than $11 million for the TMC Foundation Children’s Fund to benefit local programs for infants and children.

Money raised in Southern Arizona stays here to support wellness programs, purchase life-saving medical equipment and provide health services for children at Tucson Medical Center. To learn more about supporting TMC’s Children’s Miracle Network, please contact us at (520) 324-1141.

Amazing love – in memory of Isaiah Jordan Banks

This morning, walking into work, child-life specialist Jolene Eggert, took a photo of a balloon tied to a cactus that was planted and dedicated last month in memory of Isaiah Jordan Banks who was only 9 years old. Her thought was “Amazing love happens at TMC.”

Here’s part of Isaiah’s and his family’s story:

William Banks came to consider TMC for Children a home away from home – for his son, Isaiah, and for his whole family.

“Everyone on the staff has been like an extension of our family,” the father said. Isaiah Banks spent major parts of his 9 years in hospital beds, both at TMC and elsewhere. Isaiah’s first surgery took before he was born – an in-utero procedure designed to treat his spina bifida.

Many other surgeries and treatments followed as Isaiah and his family had to deal with his challenging medical condition.

“We’ve been to hospitals all around the country, including some major medical centers, and TMC is top of the line, all the way,” said the father of five. “The staff takes care of the whole family, while of course focusing on what the patient needs.”

This summer, the family made the decision to place Isaiah under the care of TMC Hospice, which has a pediatric program geared to the unique needs of children and their families. Isaiah passed away July 20.

His family held a celebration of his life at the TMC Marshall Conference Center, with food, music and a lot of love. His memory continues as a cactus was planted in his honor in front of the entry to TMC for Children. This week, someone place a red-heart balloon next to it.

Visit the TMC for Children blog to learn more about Isaiah and child life specialists, or learn more about Isaiah on the family’s Facebook page.

Tune to 92.9 The Mountain Aug. 24-26 for CMN Radiothon

Join 92.9 The Mountain Aug. 24-26 for a live three-day broadcast from outside the TMC Pediatric Emergency Department. Jennie & Chris’s Mountain of Miracles Radiothon will support TMC children’s programs and the Block by Block, Miracles Happen campaign for the new TMC for Children unit. The final phase of construction is done, and all 44 beautiful private rooms are now open. The TMC Foundation, 324-5982, has Radiothon volunteer opportunities available for groups and individuals. Every dollar raised for Children’s Miracle Network stays right here in Tucson to support TMC for Children.

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