World-class care

04 May 2020

MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital celebrates grand opening

By Helen Adams

Photos by Brennan Wesley

At 5:23 a.m., a siren pierced the dark morning sky in downtown Charleston.

A bright blue ambulance arrived on February 22, 2020 with the first patient for the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion in downtown Charleston.

The tiny passenger, a medically fragile baby, was brought into the hospital under the supervision of neonatologist John “Jersey” Cahill, M.D.

Judy Stephens, an architect who worked on the hospital and volunteered to help with opening day, watched from the entrance. She teared up after the baby was wheeled in. 

“It’s very emotional. A project like this is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime project. It’s 650,000 square feet, and it’s important not only for South Carolina, but anywhere. It’s such an honor. It’s really moving,” she said.

Inside the state-of-the-art hospital, namesake Shawn Jenkins was waiting to witness that first patient’s arrival.

“We were there in the NICU when the first baby came in, and everybody was clapping and cheering, and there was a little teddy bear waiting for the baby. We were crying and hugging each other,” he said later. NICU stands for neonatal intensive care unit.

Jenkins, a founder of Benefitfocus, donated $25 million to help build the hospital at 10 McClennan Banks Drive in Charleston. He arrived around 4:15 a.m. on opening day so he wouldn’t miss a thing. “I felt like it was a real honor to be able to get up early and be with the team as they came in.”

In a carefully coordinated effort, scheduled down to the second, 36 ambulances delivered child after child to the new hospital. Pregnant women started to arrive, too, and were shown to a designated “stork” elevator that took them directly to the labor and delivery area in the Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion. The pavilion is named after a well-known Orangeburg woman whose family started the company Zeus Industries and donated millions to help build the new hospital.

Gloria Belton appeared to be enjoying every minute of it. The Environmental Services employee, who said she loves babies, greeted people arriving at the stork elevator as she kept the lobby clean. 

“I’m doing some overtime. They asked, ‘Who wants to come to the new children’s hospital?’ I said, ‘Me! I’ll come,’” she said with a big smile.

She likes the fact that the new, 250-bed hospital features much more space for patients and families, beautiful views of Charleston and the latest technology. It also has an advanced fetal care center, the biggest NICU in the state, comfortable furniture for parents who want to spend the night in a child’s room, entire floors dedicated to conditions such as cancer and heart problems and a helicopter landing pad designed to support a military-grade helicopter.

On opening day, it also had opportunities for employees to cross paths with Jenkins, MUSC President David Cole, and Cole’s wife, Kathy. Belton ran across them while they were touring the hospital.

“I’m so excited,” Belton said, as Jenkins hugged her in a shared moment of elation at the hospital’s opening.

The Coles reflected on the importance of the day. 

“This is a significant moment in time certainly for our community and MUSC and our children. Twenty years from now, we’ll all talk about how we were here when it opened,” David Cole said. “It’s very meaningful. There are so many people who have been working so hard to get this to a reality.”

Kathy Cole agreed. “There’s such happiness and excitement. The transition to this beautiful facility that’s patient-centered and family-centered is going to be amazing for everybody.”

Chief medical officer Mark Scheuer, M.D., who played a key role in shaping the direction of the new hospital, said the six years leading to opening day were an inspiring, exciting and challenging journey.

“The team’s dedication, passion and never-ending drive to create a sea-change in patient and family care has resulted in a health care facility that Charleston, the state of South Carolina and the region will cherish for years to come.”

By the end of the day, 157 children and women had been transferred to the new hospital from the old one a few blocks away. The old children’s hospital will be folded into the adult hospital, to which it’s already physically connected.

Stephens, the architect and volunteer who witnessed the first patient’s arrival, said a lot of hard work went into moving day. “It’s just incredible to see it happen.”

Project Details:

Facility Name: MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital & Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion

Completion Date: February 2020

Owner: Medical University Hospital Authority

Total Building Area: 625,000 square feet, 11 stories

Total Construction Cost: $389 million

Total beds: 250

Architecture firm: Perkins+Will

Interior design: Perkins+Will

Notable features: Views of the Ashley River and Charleston Harbor, an entire floor dedicated to the care of children with heart problems, an entire floor dedicated to the care of children with cancer, rooftop helio-pad, 10,000 sq.ft. rooftop play/ respite area.

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