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A Diamond in New Mexico

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If not for Carrie Tingley Hospital, Emiliano Martinez might be a very different person today, says his mother, Yolanda Martinez.

Five years ago, when her son was 18, he was ejected from a vehicle during a road accident and suffered traumatic brain injury in addition to a host of other injuries that required multiple surgeries.

Likewise, Sharon Guerra, a nurse at Carrie Tingley, found herself on the receiving side of care last year when her daughter, Megan Mings, then 10, became ill with a ruptured appendix and widespread infection.

“She was a very sick little girl, and it’s scary to think about what would have happened if Carrie Tingley had not been there for her,” says Guerra. “Pediatrics is a special population and they need specialized attention and caring.”

That specialized attention is the reason Carrie Tingley was established 75 years ago. In September 1937, New Mexico Gov. Clyde Tingley opened a hospital in Hot Springs, N.M., dedicated to caring for children stricken with infantile polio and other diseases.

‘A life saver’

After his accident, Emiliano Martinez was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital where he remained for a month, the first half in intensive care. Stabilized but still in a coma, he was transferred to Carrie Tingley Hospital, where hospital staff slowly brought him out of a coma using a low-stimulation approach rather than drugs to quell involuntary thrashing as he regained consciousness.

“They taught him how to walk again and taught him how to eat again. They did complete rehab with him, and after three months he walked out of the hospital on his own,” says Yolanda Martinez. “He continued with outpatient physical and occupation therapy. He’s back to driving now and he volunteers at the hospital.”

Martinez calls Carrie Tingley “a life saver” for her son because of the staff’s thorough and integrated approach to treatment. “I’m their biggest supporter. We’re very fortunate that he was able to get in there and be a patient there. My biggest fear was that he would have been sent to a rehab facility that works with much older people and that he would not have gotten the same type of care he needed.”

Young Megan Mings was operated on in the children’s surgical unit at UNM Hospital and then spent six weeks recovering in the Carrie Tingley inpatient facility.

“I was on the other side of things, being a parent, and it’s just amazing the job they do, and their level of attention and caring,” Sharon Guerra says of Carrie Tingley staff.

The experience made an impact on Megan, too, who “now talks about becoming a pediatric nurse,” says her mother.

Healing place

The Carrie Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children, as it was called then, was named for the governor’s wife. Hot Springs, N.M., later renamed Truth or Consequences, was known for its healing mineral waters and resembled a similar site in Warm Springs, Ga., where Gov. Tingley’s friend, President Franklin Roosevelt, was treated for polio.

The hospital, which saw its first patient on Sept. 1, 1937, was built with money allocated under Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The hospital remained in T or C until 1981, “when it moved to Albuquerque to be closer to the University of New Mexico Hospital,” says Doris Tinagero, executive director of Carrie Tingley Hospital. “Because of the severity of (illnesses in) the kids they were treating, many needed surgery, and the surgical center was up here.”

Carrie Tingley Hospital then became part of the UNM hospital system.

Throughout September, Carrie Tingley Hospital is honoring its legacy with receptions, open houses and group and individual tours of the facility at 1127 University NE, just west of the UNM Hospital campus.

Carrie Tingley also sponsored a hospital float in the State Fair parade, and it received a proclamation from Gov. Susana Martinez proclaiming September as “Carrie Tingley Hospital 75th Anniversary Month.”

“Carrie Tingley is a small hospital treating young people from birth through age 21, mostly for orthopedic conditions, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and congenital musculoskeletal deformities,” says Tinagero.

Its outpatient services are housed in the hospital building on University NE, while its 15-bed inpatient unit is located nearby in the Barbara and Bill Richardson Pavilion at UNM Hospital.

Between outpatient and inpatient visits, Carrie Tingley provides services to more than 17,000 young people from every region of the state each year, she says.

Carrie Tingley’s operating expenses are about $18 million a year, Tinagero says. Among the patients it serviced last year, 57 percent are on Medicaid; 26 percent have private insurance; 9.6 percent have other government insurance; 3 percent get treatment as a charitable contribution; and 3 percent are self-pay.

Services offered

As the only pediatric rehabilitation hospital in New Mexico, Carrie Tingley offers coordinated treatments through inpatient and outpatient care, rehab services and outreach programs.

Its outpatient clinics encompass more than 20 pediatric specialties, including endocrinology, nephrology, gastroenterology, rheumatology, urology, pulmonology, hematology/oncology, traumatic brain injury, genetics, rehab psychology, pediatric primary care and more.

The hospital’s orthotics and prosthetics program provides custom fabricating and fitting for spinal, lower extremity and upper extremity orthotics, as well as limb replacement prosthetics.

Its inpatient rehabilitation program has physical, occupational and speech therapists working with doctors, nurses, psychologists and others in a team approach to treatment. The team has access to a therapy gym, tub room, playroom and treatment room for procedures to be done outside of the child’s room.

“The unique thing about Carrie Tingley is that as part of its original mission we served communities throughout New Mexico, and we still go out into the community through our outreach program,” says Tinagero.

Carrie Tingley outreach clinics are in communities around the state, including Las Cruces, Roswell, Farmington, Hobbs, Clovis, Santa Fe and Silver City. Outreach teams consist of physicians, medical assistants, therapists and adaptive equipment and orthotics technicians to adjust wheelchairs, braces and prosthetics.

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