Family Donates $1M to Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

Golisano Children’s Hospital improving facilities, services, staff

January 07, 2003

Still rejoicing about their daughter’s victory over a life-threatening form of cancer, Nancy and Daniel Robbins recently pledged $1 million to Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong, the hospital that helped cure their child more than three decades ago.

The generous gift will help Golisano Children’s Hospital become an even better resource for children and their families. The hospital - the only one in the region devoted solely to caring for children - is in the midst of a $55-million fund-raising campaign to significantly enhance its facilities, services, and staff. Specifically, the gift will help fund construction of a new, 22-bed Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

Given projections of patient care needs, the PICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital will soon be undersized. While functional, the current 12-bed unit - opened in 1989 - is often operating near capacity. Five years ago, there were eight children in the PICU on any given day. Today, the PICU averages about 10 each day. Some of these children were involved in car accidents. Many are recovering from major surgery. Others are dealing with the effects of a severe asthma attack or battling cancer. More than 800 children are treated annually in the PICU, an increase from 550 a year in the early 1990s.

Several years ago, Golisano Children’s Hospital recognized this trend of increasing need, and began planning for a new one. With the only PICU between Buffalo and Syracuse, Golisano Children’s Hospital offers a unique resource to the region, one that isn’t duplicated or found elsewhere in Rochester. In fact, every child in our region who requires intensive care is admitted to the PICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital. This eliminates the high cost of duplication of services, and allows for centralization of resources and expertise.

The Robbins family, of Brighton, remembers vividly their experience with a child who was fighting for her life. “It was 1970, and our 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer, a tumor behind her eye,” Nancy Robbins says. “We would have traveled anywhere to get the best treatment, but we found it here at Strong. In those days, chemotherapy was still largely an unknown quantity, and the doctors weren’t sure how our daughter would react, but she beat the odds.”

Now 35, Nancy Mullen, the Robbins’ daughter, lives in Maryland with her husband and three sons. She is a living testimony to the healing touch experienced by so many youngsters at Golisano Children’s Hospital at Strong.

The Robbins family is well known for its efforts to make the Rochester area a better place for families. For instance, Nancy is the founding president of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Rochester, a close partner of Golisano Children’s Hospital, and oversaw the building of the local Ronald McDonald House. She was also chairwoman of a committee that was behind the installation of the large, colored signs that greet visitors who enter downtown Rochester via Clinton Avenue with easy-to-understand directions. “We’re not business tycoons, nor did we inherit millions,” Nancy Robbins says. “We’re just ordinary folks who recognize that this type of gift to Golisano Children’s Hospital makes a great deal of sense. We hope it inspires other ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”

The Robbins’ gift provides continuous momentum for Golisano Children’s Hospital’s fund-raising effort, which requires raising $30 million from the community. When that is accomplished, the University of Rochester Medical Center - of which Golisano Children’s Hospital is a part - will contribute the remaining $25 million. Continued community support is crucial to the effort.

In addition to the Robbins’ gift, others have stepped up to the plate and made donations or pledges. The PICU will include the Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club Pediatric Cardiology Intensive Care Unit, which will accommodate the work being performed by the hospital’s pediatric heart team. Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club last year pledged to raise $1 million during the next five years to support the unit’s construction. Others making significant pledges to the PICU include 10NBC, B&L Wholesale Supply Inc., Christa Construction, Eckerd Drugs, Dr. Gilbert Forbes, Mix 100.5, Kenneth C. Townson Foundation, and Onnie Wells. Rooms have also been named in honor of former patients, Mark Daniel Siewert and Stephen LoPresti.

Today, because of dramatic improvements in the services and care provided to our region’s most seriously ill and injured children, the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Golisano Children’s Hospital is among the best in the nation. There is no community of our size anywhere in the country that has the quality of specialized pediatric services that Golisano Children’s Hospital does, says Jeffrey Rubenstein, M.D., medical director of the PICU. But, in our Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, we’re running out of room, and that’s why funding and constructing a new PICU is so important.

In addition to providing more needed space to children who require intensive care, the hospital intends to fulfill other important aspects of its strategic plan, improvements that will be funded through the comprehensive fund-raising campaign. It intends to recruit leaders for specialty and sub-specialty care and research, such as specialists in pediatric cardiovascular diseases, general pediatric surgery, intensive care, genetics, pediatric cancer biology, vaccine development, neonatology, pulmonology, and child health. The hospital also hopes to create a new Pediatric Surgical Suite, which will provide a more child-friendly atmosphere for children who need surgery, as well as for their parents.

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