Inspired by His Daughter, Tony Petrello’s Donation Launches Houston Research Institute

     Tony Petrello, a Yale-trained mathematician, a Harvard-trained lawyer, and the President/CEO of Nabors Industries, by nature and by training, is a first-class problem-solver. But when his daughter was born in 1997, at 24 weeks and weighing only 20 ounces, Tony Petrello, and his wife, Cynthia, in her words, “…were brought to our knees.”

Daughter Born with PVL

Carena Petrello was born with PVL (periventricular leukomalacia) a disorder in premature infants caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain. She had operations to protect her eyesight and heart and then her parents learned she had cerebral palsy. The doctors explained there was no cure. In a recent article, Petrello repeated what the doctor said to the new parents, “The doctor told us he couldn’t do anything for her.”

Little Research in Childhood Neurological Conditions

Petrello, the problem-solver, would not accept this assessment. He researched childhood neurological diseases and was quite surprised with how little research was being done. “The lack of knowledge about this problem is astounding,” says Petrello when interviewed by Philanthropy Roundtable, “and the lack of resources is sinful.”

Petrello Donates $5 million to Start a Research Center

“We have to do something,” said Petrello, and to his friends and the leadership at Texas Children’s Hospital, he broached the idea of an institute dedicated to researching neurological afflictions in children. Petrello and his wife donated $5 million followed by another $2 million pledge to jumpstart the capital campaign for the research center. In 2010 the Duncan Neurological Research Institute opened with more than 130 researchers led by a renowned neurogeneticist. “It may not help our daughter,” explains Petrello, “But we cannot accept her fate for so many others.”

Petrello’s Continue to Fundraise

Petrello and his wife, Cynthia, multiply the impact of their extraordinary donation as they are quick to offer their services as guest speakers at events for families of children touched by neurological disorders. They also appear at charitable events and participate in other activities that benefit the research to address neurological disorders in children.

Carena Inspires Us All

Carena Petrello is at the center of Tony and Cynthia Petrello’s efforts to further brain research for children. “She makes us and everyone around us feel like you’re in front of someone that’s been put here for a greater purpose.” Says Tony. The innovative research going on at the Duncan Neurological Research Institute just might be that higher purpose.

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