Hannah Howe was born with a defect in her heart that, at two months, required a life flight to Children's Hospital Colorado near Denver.

Now 12, Hannah has undergone several open heart surgeries and she and her family have had to stay there sometimes for months, her mother Kara Howe said Tuesday before a press conference at the Wyoming Medical Center.

The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center, Inc., and Children's Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colo., announced an alliance to enhance pediatric care in Casper, which will make the Howes' lives better, they said.

"I have complex congenital heart disease," Hannah said. "I was born with missing parts of my heart, and Children's Hospital provides me care like the surgeries I needed."

She and her mother drive to Aurora every couple of months for tests and valve replacements, and the new alliance will help her keep up with homework, she said. "It would be nice to not have (to fall behind on) so much school work."

While the surgeries cannot be performed in Casper, Kara said Hannah needs a lot of aftercare and the alliance will let her recover at home.

The time in Colorado, sometimes as long as three months, kept them away from her older sibling. Even a simple short test, medical bills aside, costs $120 for gas for the round trip and maybe a hotel room, Kara said. "Plus, it gets pretty expensive."

The away time, recovery time, costs and hardship are what the alliance is trying to alleviate with the hundreds of pediatric specialists and subspecialists at Children's Hospital, its CEO Jena Hausmann said.

"Kids and families don't have to always leave their home communities to get access to that level of pediatric subspecialty care; the more we can bring it into the community either through telehealth technology or bringing those physician providers here into the community for clinic visits, raising the level of training and education and simulation exchange," Hausmann said.

Children's Hospital Colorado will not employ doctors or nurses in Casper, Hausmann said. Instead it will share clinical guidelines and best practices, and offer training on-site.

"These are two independent organizations that are just going to work much more closely together to coordinate care more effectively for these families," she said. "Many will still have to travel to Denver, so we won't be able to do everything here, but the goal is that we minimize when families have to travel by making sure an appropriate level of care is there; and when families do have to travel we make it as seamless as possible and coordinated back and forth with that family."

The alliance does not involve any financial exchange or the formation of a new organization, she said.

Children's Hospital Colorado serves children in all states and 35 countries. It manages and/or operates about 500 beds, and will open a 100-bed hospital in Colorado Springs by next year, Hausmann said. Tuesday, it had 335 children in in-patient beds, sees about 2,500 children in out-patient physician clinics on any given day, and treats about 400 children in its emergency and urgent care departments on any given day, she said.

During the press conference, WMC President and CEO Michele Chulick echoed Hausmann's comments about coordinating their hospitals' children's care, "ensuring the right care at the right place at the right time, and expanding access to specialized pediatric services, providing care closer to home without the need to travel."


The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., was formed in 1986.

Until then, it was known as the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, which was owned and operated by Natrona County. After the creation of the WMC, the county continued to own the physical plant of the hospital, which is mostly in the 1200 blocks of East Second and Third streets. The WMC leases the property from the county to do health care. The WMC's rent, in effect, is to maintain the value of the physical plant and provide care for the indigent.

A five-member board of trustees -- called the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County -- oversees the WMC's lease of the county's property.

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