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  The Michigan Difference
Mott stories of hope and healing shared at campaign event


So uncertain was the early outlook that, during the first several hours of their lives in 1980, Regent David Brandon's prematurely born twin sons were known only as Brandon Boy A and Brandon Boy B.
Chris and Nick Brandon—known as Brandon Boy B and Brandon Boy A, respectively, when they were born prematurely—were treated at U-M. (Photo by Theodosia Spaeth, UMHS Public Relations)

"It was a time of incubators and tubes and bilirubin lights and fear," Brandon said May 13 as he opened the campaign kickoff event for funding a new children's hospital. "We were able, years ago, to witness first-hand the skill and expertise of the U-M—and its caring doctors and nurses. I vowed that someday I would figure out a way to help this place and the gift of life to my sons."

Similar stories of survival—newborns weighing little more than two pounds or infants with "no hope" being flown to Mott from London for life-saving heart operations—were shared by numerous other families in a videotaped appeal, "Champions for Children."

The video provided the audience of nearly 400 potential benefactors and U-M Health System (UMHS) staff and faculty with examples, presented by several of Mott's clinical and administrative leaders, of why a new facility is "not just needed, but a must."

"Our facility was designed in the 1950s, which now presents us with a number of challenges and the need for a facility to take us into the next 50 years," Pat Warner, associate director of operations and administrator at Mott, said in the video.

Warner outlined specific shortcomings, such as the difficulty of finding a way to fit a pediatric magnetic resonance imaging device into the current building and the wish to build a unit dedicated to the care of pediatric bone-marrow transplant patients so the necessary isolation precautions won't restrict a child to one room for six weeks or more.

Dr. Valerie Castle, professor of pediatrics-hematology/oncology and chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, reiterated the need to "create and build a 21st century building" to help the University advance to the next generations of technological and treatment discoveries.

"This is a jewel of the state of Michigan, and it is up to all of us to ensure that we can provide full-service care to every sick child," Castle said. "This is not just a children's hospital for this region, but for the world."

Following the campaign's "construction crew" theme, the project's "foreman," head football coach Lloyd Carr, detailed his connection to Mott.

"I want to take you back 40 years to the summer of 1964," Carr said. "When David Brandon was a sixth grader in South Lyon—before he went on to play football and earn a scholarship to U-M—I was building this hospital."

While a sophomore in college, Carr worked as a "rod-buster" on the Mott construction site, transporting steel rods used to reinforce the concrete that "became the foundation of this hospital."

Relating it to coaching, Carr said he tells his players that extraordinary performance comes only to individuals who are devoted to something larger than themselves.

"This is a cause greater than I am," Carr said. When the new Children's Hospital is built, he said, on that day "it will be one of the greatest victories in Michigan's history."

Dr. Robert Kelch, executive vice president for medical affairs (EVPMA), also returned to the early 1960s in his remarks. "I remember Mott Hospital going up, but I was too busy trying to pass Gross Anatomy and Pharmacology in Medical School to do more," said Kelch, who completed his internship and pediatric residency at U-M and has spent much of his career at the University.

"I look upon it with the greatest affection, but it is time to work toward change," he said. "To remain among the top five hospitals in the nation, our building must keep up with the advances in medical knowledge, skills and technology."

In his concluding remarks, Brandon provided a final anecdote. Near the end of their senior year of high school, Brandon took his twin sons, Chris and Nick, back to the Holden Hospital neonatal ICU for a look at where their lives started.

"We were standing at the windows [to the ICU], and I was trying to convey to the boys what it had been like, when a door opened and a nurse came out," Brandon said. "As so often happens in this hospital, she smiled and approached us, and I began to tell her how proud I was of my sons, who had been cared for here early in life.

"And as God is my witness, she looked at them and said, 'Brandon Boy A and Brandon Boy B,'" he said, adding that he had not mentioned his name or anything about their family. "'How did you know that?' I asked her. And she said, 'I've been working here for 19 years, and I remember them.'"

Related stories:
Ambitious goal announced at campaign launch>
The Michigan Difference comes to life at kickoff>
Discoveries, cures and education highlight UMHS plan>
Campaign 'heroes' ready to conquer goal>

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