Fort Worth

Fort Worth woman gives $6.5 million to hospital for faster transport jet

A Fort Worth woman’s $6.5 million donation will help critically or seriously ill children from across the country arrive more quickly at Cook Children’s Medical Center for care.

The hospital’s Teddy Bear Transport, which makes nearly 2,500 transports each year to and from medical facilities in Texas and surrounding states, will be able to fly farther and faster to pick up patients and their families with a new twin-engine jet, officials said.

Philanthropist and longtime Cook Children’s supporter Clarabele Dodson beamed with joy Wednesday when the hangar doors at Meacham International Airport rolled up to reveal the 2010 Cessna Citation Encore+ jet, topped with a large red bow, that her gift made possible for the hospital’s transport team.

“When I first saw it, I was so overwhelmed,” said Dodson, whose late husband T.L. Dodson had also financially supported the hospital. “When you see it, it makes you proud you had a part in what they are doing.”

The Teddy Bear Transport, which hospital officials say is one of the largest in the nation, includes 54 pediatric nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and communications specialists. The new specially outfitted jet will bolster the team’s fleet, which already includes a smaller King Air B200 critical-care transport plane and an American Eurocopter 145 helicopter.

All the aircraft feature pediatric-oriented technology and are equipped to transport critical-care patients.

The newest jet, equipped with advanced flight instruments and weather radar, can fly at a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet to avoid storms and can travel umore than 490 miles per hour, significantly cutting travel time, said Teddy Bear Transport director Debbie Boudreaux.

That means medical crews can arrive at a medical facility in Odessa in about 45 minutes, she said, down from the current hour and 20 minutes it takes to get there with its other jet.

“This particular aircraft has a definite advantage,” said Boudreaux, a neonatal transport nurse who often goes on transport runs. “Care starts the minute I walk through the door. The quicker I can get there, the quicker I can lay eyes on the patients and relay that information back to Cook Children’s.

“It’s truly a mobile ICU,” she added.

The jet, expected to be in service starting in June, can fly 1,700 miles without stopping for fuel. It can also fly to any destination in the continental United States or Mexico that is within 10 hours, round trip, hospital officials said. The aircraft is also larger and can carry up to five medical crew members or passengers, such as the child’s parents, and one patient.

The Dodson family has supported Cook Children’s for more than 20 years.

“They believe in children and they want the best for this community as it relates to children’s health. With this jet, we will be able to go as far or as fast as we need to bring children back here for world-class care,” said Grant Harris, the hospital’s development vice president. “It’s a testament to this dear, sweet woman and the legacy she is leaving not only today but for generations to come.”

At the unveiling, Dodson said she was honored to find her name embroidered on one of the jet’s seats and to see that the plane’s tail number had been personalized to reflect her birth date and her husband’s initials. But what she really wants is a ride.

“I have my flight suit. I’m ready to go,” she said.