A magical connection

Texas Children’s, Disney and sports

For patients, going to the hospital is not a fun experience. Between the medical reason that brings them in to the disruption of their everyday lives, its rare that anyone looks back at their time in the hospital positively.

I took a break from the world last week and witnessed hospital living firsthand. My wife (who was 8 months pregnant at the time) checked into Texas Children's Pavilion for Women with high blood pressure. This kicked off a several day journey which included induction, a lot of bleeding, an emergency C-section, and luckily the birth of our first child. There were times during this period when I felt completely overwhelmed and there were moments of fear where I was certain the worst might happen. But looking back, besides the real hero (my wife!), I have to give all of my gratitude to the hospital staff for their hard work and professionalism; and strangely enough, to Disney. Yes, I said Disney…

Back in 2018, Disney announced a five-year plan to commit $100M in resources to help reimagine the patient and family experience in children's hospitals and Texas Children's is the guinea pig for this initiative. When they set their plan into motion their aim was clear; help families who have a child facing serious illness. Now, from the description I gave above that is not really what we went through. In terms of hospital time we were in and out relatively quickly and though our procedure was scary, it was really a routine one. But even though I only got a small taste of Disney's presence, I was thankful they were there.

When my wife and I were panicking about what would happen next, a nurse came into the room wearing a Disney badge and before we knew it, we found ourselves discussing their favorite movie characters and why they chose the badge they did. We even learned that the staff is encouraged to trade badges, and from the sounds off it Princess Tiana is in high demand. When things finally calmed down and my wife was sleeping, I got a chance to catch up on the NBA playoffs. I will always have the memory of holding my child and sharing our first sports moment together while catching the recap of the Raptors winning the championship on (Disney owned) ESPN. These things seem so small, but when you are anxious and scared and in a strange place, it's the small comforts that ground you and help you return to a state of normalcy.

So what about those families whom Disney is targeting? What are Disney's benefits for them? Needless to say it goes well beyond small comforts. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Personal – Room Décor, Hospital Gowns, & Care Packages; all customized to the choice of the patient. And yes sports fans, that appears to include ESPN and sports packages as well.
  • Public Areas – Murals, Magic windows, and Magic portals; all interactive with games and apps designed to allow children a break from their rooms and a glimpse into the magical Disney universe.
  • Movies and Shows – A mobile movie theater and DisneyNow apps; giving families access to the library of Disney owned media.
  • Staff Engagement – The badges I mentioned earlier along with personalized training events with a focus on care, compassion, & comfort.

I missed the announcement of this initiative back in 2018 but was pleasantly surprised to hear about it now. I only caught a portion of the benefits myself in my short stay and am obviously hopeful I never get a chance to fully experience the rest. But with that being said I am extremely grateful it exists. It is truly amazing that a kid going into surgery has access to their heroes on demand to help calm them and give them words of encouragement. Because of the amazing Texas Children's staff and their partnership with Disney, kids who face difficult situations might be able to look back on them one day and actually have happy memories sprinkled in.

Before I return back to the busy world of work and sports (and now fatherhood), I want to take a moment to applaud all those involved in this initiative. Though it was only small gestures for me I truly thank you for your hard work. I know that the families who are unfortunate enough to need full access to these resources are extremely grateful for the effort you have put forth. Please keep up the great work!

For anyone looking to learn more please follow up here: https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/disney-team-heroes


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10th-ranked UH looks poised for a great season

Here's why UH could make a deep tournament run

The Coogs are off to a hot start. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Through eleven COVID stricken weeks, the University of Houston football team has mustered three wins.

The UH men's basketball season began on November 25th. It took them five days to catch up.

The Cougars came into last week ranked 17th in the nation in the AP preseason poll, the highest they've begun a season in 37 years. They took little time to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the nation.

UH shot out of the gate last week to a 3-0 start, including a double-digit win over 14th ranked Texas Tech. That, combined with a myriad of week one upsets, sent the Cougars soaring even further up the rankings.

By Monday afternoon, Houston was already one of the top 10 ranked teams in the nation.

Now it's important to note that it's incredibly early in the season, and there is plenty of time for something to go haywire. With TDECU stadium right across the street, they've had a front row seat to see just how sideways COVID can flip a season. The football team may only have 3 wins, but that's partly because they've had to postpone 5 games.

Regardless, they remain 10th in the nation at the moment, and it's no fluke. This is a solid team that has shown glimpses for the past three years.

Led offensively by sophomore guard Marcus Sasser (17.3 ppg) and Kansas transfer guard Quentin Grimes (16.0 ppg), the Cougars field a deep backcourt that has received welcome early contributions from freshman Tramon Mark (14.0 ppg) who's already earned an average of 19 minutes per game.

Speaking of minutes, UH brings one of the most important skills to the court this season: experience. In the era of one-and-done turnover among NCAA programs, the Cougars bring back four players that averaged over 20 minutes per game last season. That type of experience playing with one another and understanding the system head coach Kelvin Sampson plays could prove invaluable come tournament time.

What truly gives this team a shot though is their defense and hustle, both of which are a direct result of Sampson. They're simply relentless on defense. After finishing 11th in the nation last season only allowing 62.1 ppg, they've shown no signs of letting up. Through their first three games they've given up an average of 52 ppg. Even with double-digit leads, this is still a team diving for loose balls and mixing it up for offensive rebounds.

All of those ingredients make for a very salty, and very entertaining college basketball team. The Cougars have proved in the past three seasons that they're legitimately tournament worthy, and as the preseason American Conference champion favorite, this is a team that could—and should—have their eyes set even higher than their sweet sixteen appearance in 2019. Nothing is certain in the COVID era, however, but if they can make it through the season relatively unscathed they should be a tough out during March Madness.

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