The compassion and dedication to caring for children at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital extends way beyond the building in St. Louis. It opened in 1956 as part of Cardinal John J. Glennon’s desire for a health care facility for all children in need of medical care, regardless of ability to pay.
Doctors and nurses from cardiology, the pediatric intensive care unit and other areas took their love for children to Central America on medical mission trips with World Pediatric Project.
Led by SLUCare pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Charles Huddleston, the physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses visited Tegucigalpa, Honduras, during Heart Month (February) on a pediatric cardiac surgery mission trip. They worked with local surgeons to identify seven children who would receive cardiac surgery. The team traveled in previous years to Panama.
During their visit to Hospital St. Maria in Honduras, they worked with cardiologists, PICU physicians and nurses on the pre-operative and post-operative care of the patients. Also, follow-up care was provided to patients who the World Pediatric Project brought for surgery at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon in prior years.
Tegucigalpa is a city of more than 1.2 million people, and there are limited resources to take care of the children who are born each year with congenital heart disease. The major public hospital in the city, Hospital Escuella, has a birth rate of approximately 16,000 infants per year.
Anne Gildehaus, a nurse practitioner at SSM Cardinal Glennon, said it’s important that “whatever path you choose to follow on in your faith life, service to others is why we do what we do. It’s very much the reason I do it (the mission trips), because I have such gratitude to our Lord for all that He has given me. He’s blessed me with healthy children, He’s blessed me with an amazing career I would have never thought possible, I have a life I could never have imagined for myself and my children. So if I don’t show Him gratitude for that by living my life in service to others, that’s on me.”
Each morning a prayer is broadcast throughout SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital. “It’s very important to me to stop and reflect,” she said.
Her job in pediatric neurosurgery can be trying sometimes, Gildehaus said, “and it’s nice to take a few minutes and kneel at the altar of Mary in the chapel and say a prayer for the kids or their parents who are dealing with this.”
Pastoral care also is important, Gildehaus said. “If you walk through the doors of Glennon you feel there is a connection everyone has to the job they are doing and to one another. And as a family, as a patient, you are embraced by that group, as a family.”
Gildehaus began taking mission trips in 2007 when she went to Nicaragua to help teach health care providers there. In 2010, after an earthquake in Haiti, she went on a trip with CRUDEM, a foundation begun by St. Louis physician Dr. Theodore “Ted” Dubuque, Jr. to support Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti. “It changed my life,” she said of the experience and the people she met.
Gildehaus also enjoys SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s work with the World Pediatric Project in bringing patients from mission areas to the hospital for specialized, charitable care. One girl from St. Lucia, for example, was not walking due to a spinal cord mass. “We were able to treat that and send her home walking,” Gildehaus said. “I get videos every once in a while from her mom. We’re able to do things that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise without the support of the Catholic community.”
Michelle Piole, also a nurse practitioner, was on two of the trips to Panama as well as the trip to Honduras. “There are places all over the world that don’t have the resources or capabilities that we have here in the United States to correct, specifically with these patients who have congenital heart defects,” Piole said.
It’s the normal routine for the team, she said, but in meeting the families, “it was almost like we were rock stars to them,” she said. “They were so, so grateful for what we brought to them to help. Otherwise these children would pass away.”
In her office she has two key chains from families who purchased them and gave them to the team in thanks. “It blew me away that they wanted to do that for us. We don’t need any gifts, it’s what we do.”
SSM Health Cardinal Glennon’s mission of revealing the healing presence of God “exactly fits what we do when we go on these missions,” Piole said. “We take that mission and are able to spread it to other parts of the world.”
World Pediatric Project mobilizes dozens of pediatric diagnostic and surgery specialist teams each year. Annually, more than 2,000 children receive diagnostic or surgical care in their home countries or regions.
Bringing pediatric specialist care to places where access to advanced medical care for children otherwise doesn’t exist is the core of World Pediatric Project’s humanitarian outreach to its 12 partner countries in the Caribbean and Central America. WPP’s International Teams program mobilizes dozens of pediatric diagnostic and surgery specialist teams each year covering most every pediatric sub-specialty need in these countries. Annually, more than 2,000 children receive diagnostic or surgical care in this highly efficient program, reaching children in their home countries or regions.
About SSM Health Cardinal Glennon
SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital is a 195-bed children’s hospital specializing in pediatric cancer care and cardiology services. SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital is a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, both the highest possible classifications. Since 2013, U.S News & World Report has recognized SSM Health Cardinal Glennon as a Best Pediatric Hospital. A teaching hospital, SSM Health Cardinal Glennon is staffed by SLUCare physicians.
For more information on assisting with the mission, “Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the hidden presence of God,” visit www.glennon.org.