Groundbreaking takes place for WVU Medicine Children’s Tower

MORGANTOWN — Reilly Albertson is only 11 years old, but she’s already penned a handful of novels, including a romantic tear-jerker and a page-turning crime mystery.

“I have a few things I’m working on,” she said.

Monday morning, at J.W. Ruby Hospital, the budding author from Fairmont worked on a big project.

Reilly got to help write a new chapter in the history of women and children’s health care in West Virginia.

Well, check that.

She wasn’t exactly inside the facility.

She was outside, next to it, with a hard hat and a shovel.

Reilly got to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for WVU’s $150 million children’s hospital addition to Ruby.

When the WVU Medicine Children’s Tower is complete, in 2020, it will rise eight stories with 155 beds, pediatric and neonatal intensive care units, plus obstetrical units for moms-to-be coming in to deliver.

There’s that, and more, WVU Health System President and CEO Albert Wright said.

“I don’t want to overpromise, but this might be bigger than when we put the Starbucks in the lobby,” he said, as the audience that turned out on the breezy day laughed.

The audience assembled under a pavilion included physicians, state and local lawmakers, and WVU President Gordon Gee.

Dana Holgorsen, the WVU head football coach who is co-chairing the campaign for the new tower also spoke at the ceremony. The hospital already contributed $125 million to that construction goal.

The coach, in the meantime, alluded to the crowd in a sly, end-around way that brought another ripple of appreciative chuckles and applause.

“I’m in front of some of the most outstanding people in West Virginia,” he said. “I’m talking about these kids right here.”

That would be Reilly — plus Larkin Coker, Ivy Martin, Will-iam Squires and Brady Wilmoth.

Tyler Yost, Ziler Hawk-ins and Adyson Stalder, too.

All eight are either current or former patients at WVU Medicine Children’s. William is the eldest, at 13.

And all eight got to put on hard hats and wield kid-sized shovels and  move the first earth of the project.

Such young people, Gee said, are the future of West Virginia and the region.

The president said it is the obligation of the state’s flagship university to provide the best medical care possible for that segment of the population.

“Our institution is a place of purpose,” he said.

For Julie Albertson, Reilly’s mom, it was a place of comfort and assurance.

Reilly was born with spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the spinal cord.

Of course, she required specialized care as a newborn, her mom said, and that care turned out to be just a 20-minute drive on W.Va. 79 from the family home, in Fairmont.

“We were just so lucky that the hospital is right here,” Albertson said, smiling at her daughter.

Dr. Larry Rhodes, a pediatric cardiologist who was at the groundbreaking with his white physician’s coat, said the event in Evansdale “was like Christmas morning” for him.

“I’ve been associated with Children’s Hospital since 1980,” he said.

“I’ve been talking about getting a facility like this since I first got here. I’m telling everybody I believe in Santa Claus now. I can hear him on the roof. I’m very happy.”

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