"He is who he is because of you."
These words, spoken by the mother of an 11-year-old boy, will resonate with Betty Moreno forever. As a baby, the boy suffered from a rare esophageal birth defect that required a six-month hospital stay and numerous surgeries. Moreno worked as a nurse at the hospital, growing so close to the family and their son that the sound of her heartbeat could calm his crying.
When Betty arrived at the boy's homecoming party, she knew exactly what the upset infant needed.
"I took him, and he put his head against my chest. He just smiled and stopped crying," Betty recalls.
Over a decades-long whirlwind career, Betty lived the rewards and heartaches of life as a pediatric nurse. During the early 1980s, she cared for a dying little girl with AIDS as the girl's mother pleaded for her daughter to hang on.
"It was the week before Christmas, and the mother kept saying, 'Can't you wait until Santa Clause comes?'" Betty remembers. "It tore my heart out."
She worked full-time while taking classes to certify as a registered nurse, selling her jewelry and studying in the library because she couldn't afford nursing books. It was only when a physician completing his residency wrote her a check for $100 that she could buy her children Christmas presents.
Betty persevered to earn her bachelor's degree at age 42, followed by her master's, and she rose through the ranks of Texas Children's Hospital before retiring as a nursing supervisor.
Remembering the struggles she endured and the kindness of those who helped her succeed, Betty made an estate commitment to Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth for an endowed scholarship to help struggling students.
"I've always thought there are a lot of people who only need someone to help them just a little bit, just to say, 'I believe in you. I think you can do this,'" she says. "That's my passion, to help someone."