It might have been his 90th birthday, but Don Bickle was the one giving.
During a press conference Friday morning, Hays Medical Center Foundation announced the receipt of a $1 million gift from the well-known Hays philanthropist, along with his wife, Chris. The foundation has been working toward a $3 million fundraising campaign for medical technology improvements.
“We believe it’s important to commit to hometown organizations, and we have a deep appreciation for HaysMed, their staff and the healthcare that they provide,” Bickle said. “Today we’re helping to fund equipment and that’s important. But this gift is not just for a CT scanner. More importantly, the gift will support quality, specialty healthcare for all of our families and friends and neighbors in the region.
“We must all remember we will only remain excellent if we continue to invest in our community now and in the future.”
In honor of the couple’s gift, a hospital clinic has been renamed the Don and Chris Bickle Bone, Joint and Spine Center.
Friday also happened to be Bickle’s 90th birthday, and HaysMed staff surprised him with a huge German chocolate cake, complete with candles. Bickle jokingly conducted the crowd as they sang happy birthday. More than 100 people attended the conference in the hospital’s atrium, with the crowd spilling over into the cafeteria and stairway.
A primary component of the campaign is an advanced CT scanner that is capable of capturing detailed images of vital organs in just a fraction of a second. At the same time, the machine is thought to reduce radiation dose by as much as 82 percent compared to traditional scanners, according to information from the foundation.
After the Bickles’ contribution, at least $3.7 million has been received toward the campaign, which also includes the replacement of all patient monitors to allow integration with electronic medical record systems.
HaysMed’s two catheterization labs for heart-related procedures also will see renovations and new equipment, while other financial gifts will be placed in endowed funds.
Other significant contributions include more than $50,000 from HaysMed employees, $50,000 from hospital volunteers and $25,000 from the Cecil and Brenda Crawford Family/Crawford Supply for an endowed fund.
HaysMed’s new president and CEO Eddie Herrman addressed the crowd in one of his first public appearances, noting technology is one of the biggest changes hospitals will face. It’s important to stay up-to-date, as that is a key factor in patient care and providing specialty services, he said.
“It is a privilege to be able to take care of people at their most vulnerable moment. We don’t take that lightly,” Herrman said. “So as we talk about the quality of healthcare, that has everything to do with what our purpose is. And why we’re here is to provide quality healthcare so that individuals don’t have to travel far for access or the ability to have their loved one cared for close to home.”
Bickle — jokingly announcing he was going “off script” — also offered welcoming words for Herrman, noting the administrator has “big shoes to fill” after the upcoming retirement of longtime CEO Dr. John Jeter.
“I wanted to personally thank (Jeter) for what he did for us. Because without him, I don’t think we would have the DeBakey Heart Institute and I wanted to tell him thank you,” Bickle said. “I also have met Eddie. … I’m telling you, there’s no question in my mind that you’re the man to fill those shoes.”