Charlie Campuzano and his mom have seen the past and the future of critical medical care for children in Tucson.

The infant moved from the old unit at University Medical Center to Diamond Children's Medical Center in May after undergoing three surgeries in his first month of life.

Awaiting him and other children in need of specialized care at Diamond Children's is a modernized neonatal intensive-care unit, more comfortable surroundings, private "nesting" rooms and a host of specialists and nurses - all part of a $200 million expansion at UMC.

When William and Stewart Simpson arrived nearly 12 weeks before their due date, parents Wes and Penny unexpectedly began spending most of their time at the hospital.

Since the twins' birth July 24, the Simpsons have been keeping a daily watch on their children in the new neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) in the new Diamond Children's Medical Center. Diamond Children's is part of a $200 million expansion at University Medical Center.

While it doesn't officially open until next month, young patients have already moved in. The boys will likely stay hospitalized until their original due date Oct. 14.

There's a place for parents to sleep with their babies in private "nesting" rooms. There are also living-room areas, showers and laundry. And Ronald McDonald House has a family room there with Internet access, medical reference materials and a kitchen.

"It's so much quieter and comfortable," said Alexis Campuzano, whose son, Charlie, started out in the old NICU at University Medical Center when he was born April 17 with an intestinal condition called gastroschisis. He had three surgeries in his first month of life and was among the babies moved to Diamond Children's in May.

"In the old unit you could be sitting down and you'd have to move when they were bringing an X-ray by. When he was in the new place the nurses could get to the machines faster, you didn't have to move. It was just more peaceful."

Charlie was released July 5 and is now at home and doing well, his mother said.

A new designated entrance for the Diamond Children's Medical Center is still humming with construction, but those are the final touches on a project that's been a decade in the making.

Diamond Children's is a partnership between Tucson's University Medical Center and the University of Arizona Steele Children's Research Center, merging clinical and research components into one facility for young patients.

While UMC is already a regional center for children who need organ transplants, bone-marrow transplants and cancer treatment, the size and scope of the new facility is allowing for more subspecialists, said Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan, professor and head of the UA Department of Pediatrics and director of the Steele Center.

Diamond Children's has attracted 14 new pediatric subspecialists, including a pediatric nephrologist from Stanford University, a pediatric gastroenterologist from the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, and a pediatric intensive-care specialist from Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego.

Other subspecialists include a new pediatric interventional radiologist and a pediatric anesthesiologist; and pediatric surgical subspecialists, including a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon and pediatric emergency-room specialists.

"The completion of the medical center is a major step forward for the entire staff of University Medical Center and the UA College of Medicine," Ghishan wrote in an email.

For children and families, the major visible differences will be space, comfort and privacy.

The old 30-bed neonatal intensive-care unit, for example, was all contained in a large room. The new unit triples the floor space of the old one, has six more beds and a maximum of four babies per room. There's also room for expansion to allow for population growth in Southern Arizona, said registered nurse Vicki Began, who is UMC's vice president of women's, children's and emergency services.

There are some logistical changes, too. Anyone going to UMC for pediatric care beginning in September will go into the hospital through a separate Diamond Children's Medical Center entrance and lobby located in the space that was UMC's old emergency department and trauma unit. One of the signatures of the entrance will be metal silhouettes of children hanging onto a colorful kite, which is the Diamond Children's symbol.

Hospital officials have created a colorful interactive lobby with big metal trees, stars on the ceiling and a faux Canyon de Chelly on one wall with touchable petroglyphs. There are also murals, a canopy, large telescope and stage, and a children's library with a child-sized door. Several sculptures, murals and benches were donated by local families, some of whom have lost children to accidents and illness.

A new kid-friendly café that's still under construction will feature comic strips on the tables, a gas pump and a car.

A train donated by the Tucson Garden Railroad Society travels above head-level through the lobby and loops into a new gift shop called The Toy Shop.

A meditation room with a colorful aquarium is a place where families may go for quiet time.

Part of what's now a staff parking garage will be designated as public spaces for Diamond Children's patients and their families.

For the Simpson family, the new facility has eased a transition from expectant parents to parenting two hospitalized newborns. William weighed 2 pounds 3 ounces at birth, and his brother weighed just under 2 pounds. Stewart had heart surgery, and both are improving.

"We are taking everything in stride," Wes said. "It's a really nice setup they have here."

What's in the building

Diamond Children's occupies the top three floors of the hospital's new six-story tower, and is part of a $200 million expansion project that University Medical Center began in 2006.

But starting with planning and design, the project itself has really been about a decade in the making, said Stephen K. Brigham, who is UMC's director of capital planning and projects.

The expansion project includes 12 phases, with all but two - a new parking garage and the new children's lobby - now complete.

The first floor of the new tower is UMC's emergency department and trauma unit, which opened June 16. Also on the first floor is a separate children's emergency-room entrance and department. On the top of the six-story tower are three helipads that are already in use.

UMC is Southern Arizona's only Level 1 trauma facility, the highest designation for trauma centers. That means it's the only hospital in the region equipped to handle severe injuries that carry a risk of death or significant disability in both children and adults.

Like other children's hospitals around the country, the new children's medical center is not expected to be a moneymaker. Hospital officials estimate that 55 percent to 60 percent of its pediatric patients are enrolled in Medicaid, which in Arizona is known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. AHCCCS is for extremely low-income residents who in general are living at or below the federal poverty level, and current government reimbursement levels for Medicaid patients are below what it costs the hospital to treat them, officials say.

How to help

• The cost of the Diamond Children's Medical Center interior is estimated at $55 million. Developer Don Diamond already has pledged $15 million.

• The UMC Foundation is accepting tax-deductible donations for the project at or by mail: Diamond Children's Medical Center, UMC Foundation, 655 E. River Road, Tucson 85704. For information about other donation options, call 694-6088.

• The Diamond Children's Medical Center fundraising gala is scheduled for 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa. Tickets are $200 per person. For more information call the UMC Foundation at 694-1196.

•Diamond Children's is seeking volunteers for its gift shop, library and reception area. Call 694-6703 for details.

Did you know

The children's medical center is named for developer Don Diamond and his family. As plans for the UMC children's hospital were nearing completion, Diamond and his wife, Joan, pledged $15 million. The donation was particularly meaningful for the couple because their daughter Deanne died of asthma in 1971, when she was 14.

Other major donations include:

• Children's library, where hospital officials plan to hold story times for patients and their siblings, from retired UMC CEO Gregory A. Pivirotto and his family.

• Route 66-themed café from the family of Hanne and David Duke in memory of their grandson, Blake Shumway, who died of cancer.

• Playroom on the pediatric cancer ward donated by Ventana Medical Systems.

• Children's outdoor play area from the C.J. Zilveti family.

• Meditation room from David and Ellen Goldstein and family.

• Interactive wall of play from the Jon and April Fenton family.

• Six hospital rooms donated by the Pima Medical Institute.

• Train depot and gift shop from Jim and Mary Horvath.

By the numbers:

Pediatric expansion at University Medical Center

When the project is complete, UMC officials expect to have:


total beds for pediatric patients, including:


private oncology, bone-marrow transplant and transplant beds


private pediatric medical-surgical beds


neonatal intensive-care beds


pediatric intensive-care beds.


pediatric emergency-room beds.

Pediatric expansion at Tucson Medical Center

Tucson Medical Center is also expanding its pediatric department, with most of the $12.5 million work expected to be complete by the end of the year. When it's done, TMC will have:


pediatric beds, including:


private pediatric medical-surgical beds


neonatal intensive-care beds


pediatric intensive-care beds


pediatric emergency-room beds

Contact reporter Stephanie Innes at or 573-4134