As a young girl, I always looked forward to Christmas, a holiday that our family celebrated. Each December, the anticipation would build as I wondered if I would get the “big” present from Santa that I wanted. One year, I had very high hopes for that gift…and I received the present about which I had dreamed.
Tomorrow, we will transport our adult patients from John Sealy Hospital to Jennie Sealy Hospital. As I think about this historic moment, I cannot help but notice the similarities between opening our beautiful new hospital and the year I received that “big” present I had always wanted for Christmas.
As a ten-year-old fifth grader growing up in Paris, Illinois, I already knew that Santa got a lot of “help” from my parents. However, this knowledge did not diminish my eagerness to find out whether or not I would receive the shiny new aqua and chrome bicycle I had recently seen at the bicycle shop. Without a doubt, that was the bike I wanted. But, as my parents had sensibly pointed out to me, it was very expensive. With those words, a feeling of uncertainty had been created—although I believed I would get a bicycle of some sort, I was not so sure that I would get the one I really, really wanted.
When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, I could hardly sleep. I wondered through the long hours of the night whether I would get the bike I wanted. When I awoke on Christmas morning, it was still dark outside. I checked my alarm clock to see it was only 3:00 a.m. My parents never minded that my siblings and I got up early, but I was certain that getting everyone out of bed at three o’clock in the morning was out of the question. So, I quietly got out of bed so as not to awaken my sister, and I tip-toed to the living room.
In the darkness, I could vaguely see the outline of a bicycle, but I could not tell if it was the one for which I had wished. Very quietly, I pulled back the living room drapes so the light from the street lamp in our front yard shone in through the window. I saw the light bounce off a shiny aqua and chrome bicycle. It was the exact bike I had wanted!
Christmas morning came and went, and that afternoon, I took my new bicycle outside for my first ride. Fortunately, winter that year had been milder than usual, so I did not have to contend with snow. But as I sat on the seat, I realized that this was a much larger bicycle than I was used to. My feet barely touched the pedals. My dad noticed this immediately and helped me lower the seat so that it fit me better. In addition to being a much larger bike than the one I had before, many of its features worked differently than my old bike. The handlebars where higher, the basket was in the back instead of the front, and it did not have a bell like my other bicycle.
As I pushed off to take my first ride, my first few minutes pedaling around were a little wobbly. I could tell that my dad was concerned, but I let him know I would get used to it. “Don’t worry,” I told him. And I was right. Within the hour, I was riding the bike as if I had it my whole life.
Just as I waited with eager anticipation to receive my new bicycle, we have also waited a long time for the official opening of Jennie Sealy Hospital to become a reality. When I arrived at UTMB in September 2009, the Texas Legislature had approved rebuilding UTMB on the island, but the business plan had not been completed, and the University of Texas System Board of Regents still had to approve it, which they did in August of 2011. Now, a little more than four years later, we are ready to open the hospital to care for our patients.
Our gift of Jennie Sealy Hospital to the communities we serve required many helpers, including the UT System and Texas Legislature, the entire Galveston community, many generous donors, and our faculty and employees. Whether you helped with the design, helped get the building ready for our employees and patients, served as a volunteer for the official patient move day, or you made your own special contribution to the Jennie Sealy Hospital, all of you were critical “helpers” who got us to this pivotal moment in UTMB’s history.
Our new gift is also shiny and clean, thanks to the entire Environmental Services team, led by Jason Botkin, who worked endless hours to ensure that the hospital would be clean and ready to accept new patients on Saturday. It is my hope that we will all take the responsibility to keep Jennie Sealy Hospital as beautiful as it was the day it opened through simple actions like picking up trash on the floor, keeping the hallways clear, and ensuring visible work spaces are tidy and uncluttered.
Just as I quickly got accustomed to the bigger bicycle, I know that once we adjust to the size of our new space in Jennie Sealy Hospital, we will really enjoy it and fully appreciate its features. For example, the patient rooms in Jennie Sealy Hospital are twice the size of rooms in John Sealy Hospital*. Work spaces for clinicians are also larger, and there is additional storage for supplies and medications. Because the space in the new hospital is so much larger, we added a new nurse communication system. The placement of decentralized nurse stations between every other patient room will help nurses stay close to their patients while working on the computer.
Finally, just as my father needed to adjust the seat and handlebars on my bike for me, I know there will be things that will need to be changed once we move into our new space and as we get settled. If the adjustments that are needed relate to the safe care of our patients, those items will be triaged and addressed immediately; meanwhile, to-do items that are not patient safety issues will be compiled on a master list and addressed in order of importance.
For many of us, April 9, 2016 will be an exciting day, and it will also be a day filled with emotion. In many respects, opening Jennie Sealy Hospital means we are officially closing the chapter on Hurricane Ike and beginning a new chapter of exemplary health care at UTMB. I want to thank each one of you today for helping UTMB give this beautiful new gift to our patients and the communities we serve, to our health care teams and our employees, and to tomorrow’s health care professionals who will train in this new state-of-the-art facility.
One of my favorite sayings is, “Hope is wishing for something to happen. Faith is believing something will happen. Courage is making something happen.”
Thank you to each one of you who stood by UTMB Health throughout this chapter in its history. Your faith and courage to forge forward to rebuild a new UTMB made the new Jennie Sealy Hospital possible!
Jennie Sealy Hospital – Photo courtesy of HDR Architecture, Inc.; © 2016 Dan Schwalm/HDR
*Phase II of the John Sealy Hospital Modernization Project will soon begin, and those renovations will expand all units to match those in Jennie Sealy Hospital.