Permit me an indulgence: To report on something positive that happened yesterday involving a member of my family. Don’t usually do such stuff, journalistic ethics and all that, but hey, this is about as non-controversial as it gets — and it even had Mayor Mike in such a jovial mood that he actually talked at length to a reporter from Fort Worth Weekly.
The occasion was the official opening of the Joe Pace Hanger out at Meacham field and the new all-encompassing home of Cook Children’s Hospital’s Teddy Bear Transport team. For the first time in the air transport team’s history, they will be sleeping near both of their planes, a few seconds sprint from their beds to the King Air B200 critical care transport airplane or their recently purchased American Eurocopter 145 helicopter that is a state-of-the-neonatal-art air ambulance, or the four road ambulances parked just outside the hanger. Because of the fragile lives of the babies they care for, such speed can be the difference, literally, between life and death for these wee ones, more than 2,000 who are transported to Cook Children’s by this crew annually.
The hanger was named for the Fort Worth businessman who in 1980 was a member of the coordinating board that facilitated the merger of Cook Children’s Hospital and Fort Worth Children’s Hospital and who raised or contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the hospital over the years. Members of his family were honored guests, and as one nurse said, “It’s about time we named something after him.”
For all of the crew, the new facility was a dream come true. “We have died and gone to heaven,” one long-time nurse sighed, as she showed visitors around the facility’s living quarters that includes private bedrooms, a sleek kitchen, a comfortable lounge area, huge storage space for all of that tiny-baby equipment these folks have to haul around with them, a computer room, and a state-of-the-art dispatch center that looked like the inside of an air-control tower at D/FW.
It was a long way from what seemed like little more than a hall and closet that this extremely patient bunch shared at the downtown hospital for many, many years.
This crew of 21 neonatal/pediatric nurses, respiratory therapists and paramedics, shares more than 400 combined years of transport experience between them, but even as they stabilized the most medically fragile babies, some weighing no more than a pound, and got them to the hospital safely, this rescue team for too many years hasn’t had a stable home themselves. They’ve been put in everything from the space described above to a stint in the hospital’s basement, to a period at Spinks Airport in Burleson where they kept only the fixed-wing craft.. Once a call came in for that type of transport, it could take 20 or more minutes to get the crew out there, precious time in the life of a premature baby. Before the Meacham site became available, Cook was searching for a permanent home for the transport team and had been negotiating with Arlington’s municipal airport. When Moncrief got wind of that, he said, “It wasn’t going to happen. … Cook Children’s and Teddy Bear Transport is Fort Worth,” he said. The city was not going to tolerate “this precious resource” to be anywhere but here. He told Tom Higgins, acting city manager, to find a way to make it happen. And happen it did.
And now, full disclosure, my daughter Sarah Brink-Goodall-Rogers has been a member of the transport team for nigh on to 20 years. She is one of the team’s many skilled nurses who have kept thousands of wee babies alive until they reached the healing and skilled hands of the doctors and nurses at Cook Children’s, whether they were flying them in from small West Texas towns or rescuing them from hospitals devastated by a Katrina or an Ike or rushing them by ambulance from the back seat of a car out in the ‘burbs where they decided daddy wasn’t getting mama to the hospital quick enough. Thank you dear readers for allowing me a moment of personal privilege.