LeRoy Collins Commentary 18

Commentary #18
9 December 2006

There, but for the Grace of God...

Ron, this past week you had a remarkable gathering of physicians, clinicians, friends, other Board members, and media representatives to celebrate an extraordinary gift to Tampa General Hospital of $6 million by the family of Jennifer Leigh Muma, who died in 1973 at Tampa General as an infant in the neo-natal nursery. Her parents, Pam and Les, spoke eloquently about the experience of losing a child as only her parents could express, and that their subsequent business success enabled them to inspire the Tampa General and University of South Florida Medical School partnership to launch a world class Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Tampa General Hospital. Dean Klasko reminded us the Muma's initiative triggered matching grants from USF and the State to net a total contribution of $14 million! WOW.

As one of your Board members, I was honored to be there to witness this noble act of public stewardship, and the media attention it got and DESERVED. But as I wandered around talking with various attendees, it suddenly hit me...during January of the same year of 1973, our youngest son, Edward, was born in the same hospital, WITH THE SAME DISEASE (hylene membrane disease of the lungs), was detained in the same neonatal unit for over a week, and like the Mumas, we anguished not knowing if our newborn would survive.

Edward's birth was very early in the TGH/USF partnership, and his attending pediatric physician, Dr. Wade Baggs, gave Jane the choice of where to go for the delivery. Jane chose TGH largely because it was just a mile from our home, and her parents. Dr. Baggs said OK, but little did we know this would turn into his test of this new TGH environment of medical students and school staff with patients of private practicioners, or at least it did in Edward's case.

Within hours of Edward's birth, Dr. Baggs discovered this serious malformation of Edward's lungs, which required immediate placement in a 100% oxygen glass box, with an array of sensors, probes and tubes supplying a controlled environment to hopefully sustain some life, Edward's healthy weight and robust size notwithstanding. This was the same setting President Kennedy's youngest child, born in the early 1960s, failed to survive.

Dr. Baggs prepared us for the worst. In the midst of it all, he became cross-threaded with the Med School staff, which was making timely decisions re treatment of DR. BAGGS' PATIENT, and informing him after-the-fact! He discussed this anomaly with us, which we did not sufficiently appreciate, because we WANTED Edward to be observed closely for 24/7, and that was physically impossible for Dr. Baggs, despite his highly attentive professional efforts. At this anxious juncture, the politics of hospital and Med School were the least of our worries.

To make a long story less long...Dr. Baggs ultimately understood our dilemma with HIS complaint, and resolved the matter with TGH somehow. The result after about 10 perilous days was a healthy baby at last, which we carried home to an adoring family. Dr. Baggs continued to treat our 4 children through their teen years until one weekend about twenty years ago. He and his wife went to his hometown in Camilla GA. On the way back to Tampa on US 301 near Jessup GA in a rainstorm, the oncoming car on a 2-lane highway, strayed over into the Baggs' path. The horrific collision killed the occupants of both cars. Edward attended the memorial service with us. A teenager, which by now had no sense of finality, Edward took it the hardest of us all. This dedicated pediatrician, who painstakingly SAVED EDWARD'S LIFE at birth, was now silenced forever by a violent and sudden death.

Today, Edward is 6'5" tall, he participates regularly in triathlons, has a very successful casualty insurance career, and has a healthy daughter of his own. He is the most attentive father I have ever known. His former wife works in the neo-natal unit of Tampa General Hospital. TGH is a very special place; with your leadership, I believe it will remain that way.

/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.
Director, Tampa General Hospital


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