After a record-setting donation was given to the Trinity Mother Frances Hospital by a local Tyler couple, Tyler Junior College students anticipate the opening of a new heart hospital in coming months.

Louis and Peaches Owen of Tyler donated $18 million dollars to TMFH towards its plan to construct Tyler’s first heart hospital, to be named the Louis and Peaches Owen Heart Hospital in their honor.

Anticipation filled the air as Lindsey Bradley, the President of TMF Hospitals and Clinics, announced the donation, which is believed to be the largest private donation ever to a medical facility in this part of Texas.

“We want this to become a care center that’s preeminent in our country,” said Bradley. “People will want to come from all over the world. That’s the vision we want for ourselves, and that’s the challenge that Louis and Peaches has placed in front of us.”

The Owens gave the donation on behalf of their 55th anniversary on Sept. 3 and humbly mentioned that it was in no way a part of gaining recognition, but to inspire the spirit of volunteering in the community.

“This is sort of our gift to each other. We’ve worked hard, but we haven’t deserved everything we’ve finally got,” said Mr. Owens. “We’re just giving it back now.”

Although the donation was given in the hope of spurring philanthropy in the community, students in the area are happier that a brand new hospital is bringing new jobs as well and for some students, it’s just in the nick of time.

“It’s awesome to hear news like that,” said Shane Percy, a recent graduate from the Radiology program at TJC. “I need a job just like everyone else who gets a degree, so this is always good news to hear when looking for open positions.”

TJC offers many different Allied Health pro grams at the junior college, from radiology or nursing, to sonography and medical lab technicians, all of which can find jobs in the area with the associated degrees. And with the construction of a new hospital, it will keep the interest of many graduating students to stay in the area by giving them the opportunity to get a job close to home.

“My family lives around here, and after completing so many clinical hours here its just familiar,” said Chessie Humphries, first-year nursing student at TJC.

“It’s great for anyone who wants to do specialty care,” said Patricia Clark, another first- year nursing student. “It’s good for everyone, since more people are graduating than jobs are opening. Not to mention students from UT Tyler we have to worry about.”

Phase one of the construction of the Heart Hospital is now under way. Scheduled to open in December 2010 inside TMFH’s Ornelas Tower, conversion of the fourth floor will include state-of-the-art enhancements of medical and information technology.

Phase two will likely begin in spring 2011, with completion scheduled within 18 months. This seven-story hospital will include three floors devoted to 48 ICU patient beds and 16 observation beds for rapid assessment. Also included will be many different outpatient diagnostic facilities so staff can keep a closer eye on patients, to ensure that they recovery quickly and properly.

Architectural plans are still being revised to determine square footage, number of beds and the total cost of the project, but it will be connected to the Ornelas Tower to allow specialists and staff easy access to both buildings.

The completion of the Heart Hospital will be a landmark for the East Texas area, putting Tyler on the map as a leader in treatment for heart and vascular-related problems nationwide.

“We visited some of the best heart hospitals in the country,” said Bradley. “I believe that when it (LPOHH) opens, this facility will become a destination for heart patients from across the country. It will be that good.”

But to Peaches Owen, the completion will be a dream come true, and will start a legacy for her family for generations to come.

“I want to look back and be able to say ‘we started that, we did that,'” said Mrs. Owen.

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