Georgetown Pediatric Gala History

Mary M. Hoobler, Gala Founder

On December 22, 1997, my beloved husband, James Hoobler, passed away from compromised lung function in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at Georgetown University Hospital. The professionals at Georgetown impressed me even more this last time than they had the first time Jim was treated at Georgetown Hospital. Please take a moment to read our story and then you'll understand why it is my life's passion to help these dedicated professionals receive the recognition they so richly deserve and the funding they need to continue serving the disadvantaged children of the Washington area.

Our relationship with Georgetown began in 1988 when Jim was treated for Hodgkin's Disease. The team that diagnosed the stage of the disease and recommended treatment was extraordinary. They took time to answer all our questions no matter how long it took. Jim went through many months of radiation treatment and raved about the technicians. He often said they had the best sense of humor and got all of his jokes, or at least pretended to. They were just as happy as we were when Jim was declared cured.

The last time Jim was treated at Georgetown was initially for a bleeding ulcer. For some unknown reason one week after the surgery, which successfully repaired the ulcer, Jim had trouble breathing. Many treatment options were pursued with the last albeit remote option for recovery was on Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation [ECMO] a treatment modality typically used for premature infants. ECMO uses an extremely sophisticated machine, which acted as Jim's lungs giving them time to heal.

Luckily a member of the PICU team had extensive experience with ECMO. The PICU team coordinated Jim's treatment from that point on. ECMO requires around the clock maintenance by specially trained technicians and often technicians from outside the Washington area were required to maintain treatment complicating scheduling. While on ECMO Jim used over 800 units of blood products including red cells, plasma and platelets. Not once was there a question about providing the needed blood products even though the likelihood of recovery dwindled each day he remained on ECMO.

Every person in every department involved in Jim's treatment was just as dedicated to his recovery as I was. The nurse who attended him on the surgical ward asked to continue to be part of his treatment team and was quickly assimilated into the PICU staff. For the several weeks Jim was in the PICU I lived in the parent's room and closely monitored every step of his treatment, documented all test results, insured all specialists briefed me on their rounds before leaving the floor, and kept meticulous notes of all conversations. While it is not unusual for a loved one to be so involved in the recovery process, the Georgetown team went out of their way to explain each test result, what options they were pursuing and the correspondent risks, and reviewed every single x-ray with me. There were no parochial attitudes invoked, just a determined will by all parties to save Jim.

Living with these professionals created a strong and unique bond. Not only did they totally embrace me as part of the treatment team; they also included me in their personal lives. I got to know all about their families and children and they learned all about Jim and our wonderful, but short time together. They learned of his love for Frank Sinatra, the Finger Lakes region of NY, and the Maryland Terrapins. We listened to Frank for endless hours, put up a Terrapin banner and read the cards that took up every inch of two walls in his room. In other words, we became family.

Not once during their valiant efforts to save Jim did they give up hope. When it was clear Jim could not be saved and I decided to stop all treatment, his primary physician who was at home preparing to visit her family in Minnesota offered to come back to the hospital to be with me when Jim died. I did not accept her extraordinary offer, instead insisting she stay with her family. It was at that moment, when she was willing to sacrifice time with her family to be with me, I decided I had to repay Georgetown.

After exploring many options, I decided the best way I could repay these exceptional professionals was to raise funds for Georgetown's critically important community pediatrics programs. Thus, three years later, the First Annual Georgetown Pediatrics Gala was held. I ask you to join me in celebrating the excellence that lives at Georgetown.