A Circle of Care: Innovation and Generosity at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital

Eleven years ago, a journey began at the University of Michigan Health’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital with a young patient named Reese Partlow. Diagnosed with a rare genetic condition, Reese’s medical challenges set in motion a “circle of care” that, over a decade later, culminated in an extraordinary act of generosity from her family. On Rare Disease Day (Feb. 29), a poignant symbol for those facing unique medical battles, the Wayne and Joan Webber Foundation announced a $7.5 million donation.

A photo of a family.

“The gift was made in honor of Wayne and Joan’s grandniece, Reese Partlow, who has been an extraordinary inspiration to her family and care providers her entire life,” shared Luanne Thomas Ewald, chief operating officer at Mott and University of Michigan Health’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital

The story of Reese’s resilience and the unwavering support of her family in the face of daunting medical challenges have profoundly shaped this act of generosity. The aim is to revolutionize the healthcare experience for children facing similar complex conditions, ensuring they receive the most compassionate and innovative care possible.

Funding future innovations 

The donation is designated to support three crucial initiatives at Mott:

  • Wayne and Joan Webber Little Victors Virtual Care Congenital Heart Fund is dedicated to advancing technology-driven care for children facing multifaceted health challenges, particularly those with cardiac issues among other complex medical needs. The use of technology in care, such as wearable devices and virtual therapies, aims to enhance the responsiveness and accessibility of healthcare for young patients across Michigan and beyond. This could lead to a reduction in necessary hospital visits and allow healthcare professionals at U-M to respond more swiftly to any changes in a child’s health condition.
  • Wayne and Joan Webber Little Victors Virtual Care Gastrointestinal Fund will extend technology-enhanced care to children with intricate health conditions requiring gastrointestinal attention. Echoing the objectives of the congenital heart fund, this initiative seeks to make healthcare more accessible and timely for these young patients, potentially minimizing their hospital stays.
  • Reese Partlow Social Worker in Genetic Counseling Fund aims to provide essential social work services through the Genetics Counseling Program. It ensures that families have access to professional social workers who can assist in navigating the emotional and informational challenges that come with receiving significant genetic diagnoses, guiding them towards useful resources and support networks.

Impact on patients and families

The impact of this donation on patients and families at Mott is profound. By integrating technology-enabled care, “U-M physicians and nurses can more closely monitor changes in a child’s condition to be more proactive at the first signs of complications,” Thomas Ewald noted. This innovative approach aims to reduce hospital visits, alleviate stress for families, and provide timely interventions, fundamentally changing the care landscape for children with complex conditions.

Collaborative decision-making 

The decision-making process for allocating the funds was deeply personal, drawing from the family’s experience with Reese’s care. “Reese’s family identified ways that they thought could benefit other families caring for a child with complex needs,” Thomas Ewald shared, highlighting the collaborative effort to ensure the donation makes a meaningful difference in the lives of Mott’s patients and their families.

Envisioning the future

Looking forward, this donation marks a significant milestone in the evolution of pediatric care at Mott.

Thomas Ewald reflected on the broader implications: “This gift helps to expand on key initiatives that have been priorities at Mott: making care more accessible to families across our state and region, and caring for the whole patient.”

The incorporation of virtual care and enhanced support services not only addresses immediate medical needs but also fosters a holistic approach to patient well-being, setting a new standard for pediatric healthcare.

A Legacy of compassion

The relationship between the Webber family and Mott, strengthened over years of collaboration and shared experiences, underscores the power of community and the lasting impact of compassionate care. As Mott continues to pioneer innovative solutions for pediatric healthcare, the legacy of Reese Partlow and the generosity of her family will resonate, inspiring a future where every child’s care journey is enveloped in a circle of care, compassion and innovation.

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