'I think we were taking life for granted, frankly. You don’t know how lucky you are until it almost gets taken away from you.'

Laura Stone saw the Valentine’s Day gift on the table and suspected what was inside: a car catalog and an unspoken nudge from her husband to replace her old vehicle.

So there it sat until evening, appreciated and practical if not exciting. When she finally unwrapped the package, tied up with red string, she found something that would change lives far beyond their own. David Stone had chosen to sponsor the neonatal intensive care floor inside the new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and presented it to her as a gift.

“We’ve learned quickly that life can change,” Mrs. Stone said recently. “It puts into perspective how little control you have, and being able to play a role in saving lives is just so precious.”

Her husband used to hold the record as the smallest baby ever born in Memphis. At only about 2 pounds, a tiny David Stone made the pages of the local newspaper, but his twin brother didn’t survive.

David and Laura Stone with their son, Beau. 

With children and grandchildren of his own, Mr. Stone often considers the brother he never had the chance to know and how modern advances in neonatal care could have changed his life.

Mr. Stone became acquainted with the MUSC Children’s Hospital through his company, which delivered materials to Nucor Steel, a sponsor of an annual golf tournament benefiting the hospital. Every year Mr. Stone sought to make the highest bid on the framed tournament T-shirt, a tradition continued today on his behalf. 

His connection to MUSC as a patient began more recently, shortly after a family vacation to Jerusalem. A stroke landed him in the emergency room at another local hospital, and doctors there discovered the mass.

Mr. Stone was diagnosed with stage-3 lung cancer a little more than a year ago. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation at Hollings Cancer Center, and on St. Patrick’s Day 2017, he rang the bell to signal the end of successful treatment. But three months later, a routine scan proved devastating.

The cancer had returned and spread to his other lung. He was at stage 4. Dr. Stone’s care team at Hollings enrolled him in a clinical trial that, three scans later, is working.  

“I think we were taking life for granted, frankly,” Mrs. Stone said. “You don’t know how lucky you are until it almost gets taken away from you. We’re fortunate to be able to make this gift and that David is able to be a part of it.”

Shortly before Valentine’s Day Mrs. Stone told her husband, “I want a floor” at the hospital under construction. He initially said, “You got it,” but as the days passed, he seemed less sure. 

Mrs. Stone sent a text message to MUSC Children’s Hospital Development Director Barbara Rivers, asking the cost to name the neonatal intensive care floor. When the conversation lost enthusiasm at home, Mrs. Stone never suspected that her husband and Rivers were planning a surprise.

“We had so much fun turning this gift into an unforgettable Valentine’s Day for one family that will help to provide the best medical resources for so many families across our region,” Rivers said. “This act of generosity is truly the culmination of a story that began when David was born and developed throughout his career, as he became a supporter of our hospital through the golf tournament.”

The new MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital will provide family-centered medical care. Seven of its 82 neonatal intensive care floor beds will serve as dedicated couplet care rooms that keep newborns alongside their mothers instead of in a special nursery.

After touring the construction site, Mr. Stone said he felt honored to be a part of the project.

“It’s going to be the most state-of-the-art children’s hospital in the country,” Mrs. Stone added. “To be on the ground floor of that is huge.”