I got off work early last Saturday. One of the local hospitals just completed a multi-million dollar, multi-year construction project, and was offering tours, so I decided it would be interesting to check things out. I must admit, my motives were rather self-serving. As a parent of a child with severe food allergies (he has a whole list of things that will cause anaphylactic shock), I wanted to see the new facilities designed specifically to hold the Children’s Hospital. I hope I never have to see them again, but it is comforting knowing they are there. I also took the three-year-old with me. He has lived most of his life with “If you eat that, you will have to go to the hospital,” and I wanted him to have a familiarity with the facilities in a non-threatening situation.
The tour took a little over an hour, and we walked forever, but we saw some of the most amazing things! All the patient areas where a child might be a patient are accessible only by a key card issued by the hospital, so no one can get in without pre-approval. On the one hand, it might be a bit much. I mean, the reason children being snatched from hospitals makes such big headlines is it almost never happens. On the other hand, when it happens it makes big headlines, so I can understand the hospitals wanting to err on the side of caution. Anyway, because of the key-card access limitations, once the new building goes into use, none of these spaces will ever be open to just look at again.
The tour started in the lobby, then went to the top patient floor and worked its way back down. We did skip one floor – the second – which the hospital has left as an empty shell, in preparation for future expansion. For the time being it will not be used. And we did not get to see the roof with its two new heliports, but you can see it on the website. (SPOILER ALERT – The audio was not properly synced with the video when I checked out the virtual tour last time, so you see stuff before you hear about it. It is really annoying.) The 6th floor will be General Pediatrics, kids who are hospitalized for this or that or the other thing. When the three-year-old was in the hospital for the flu, General Peds is where we stayed. All the rooms are private, so the kids have space to spread out, and there are empty picture frames on the walls that have openings in the top for kids to drop in their own artwork. There are two Child Life Centers – AKA playrooms – on each children’s floor, one for teens and one more geared toward littler kids. All of the Child Life Centers are designated as treatment-free, meaning that they will be a safe zone for the kids, away from needles, or medications, or vitals checks. They also have classrooms where the kids can catch up on homework and assignments that they are missing while in the hospital.
The 5th floor is an adult cardiac unit. In addition to all the things you would expect on a cardiac floor, the hospital has also installed an internet network that is accessible in every patient room, so that patients and their families can keep up with their online life. This floor does not have the key-card requirements, like the child floors do, but there is a check-in area just outside the elevators where visitors will have one last stop before they see the patient. On this floor, there is a difference in the ventilation system, as well. On on the children’s floors, the air-flow in the rooms is designed to “blow” out through the door, so any germ in the room are moved away from the smaller patients, who may have compromised or not-fully-developed immune systems. On the cardiac floor, the ventilation is reversed so the air “blows” INTO the room. This helps keep any germs a patient may bring into the hospital with him or her, rather than spreading to other cardiac patients.
On the 4th floor Pediatric Critical Care Unit, each room has a movable pillar suspended from the ceiling. In these pillars are all the connections you would normally find on the wall near the head of the bed. The pillars allow for the rooms to be “rearranged” for kids who may be spending a longer visit in the hospital and would otherwise get bored with their rooms. Special rooms for child cardiac patients and the St. Jude patients are also located here.
The 3rd floor is the new Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. The NICU is massive compared to the current facilities. Where currently there are 6 incubators to a room, the new unit will have one incubator per room and a sofa bed for the parents if they want to sleep in the room with their baby. They also have additional “bedrooms” for the parents just down the hall, in case they want to sleep for a while away from the machines, or if the parents want to “trade off” – one in the patient room while the other sleeps in the bedroom. The NICU will be able to house up to 60 infants at a time in seven different “neighborhoods” that are color-coded to help parents and loved ones find the right room more quickly.
On the main floor will be admitting, outpatient testing, a gift shop, and a Family Life center – phones, computers, a kitchen and even laundry facilities for families of patients to carry out some of their normal, day-t0-day activities while staying close. Downstairs is the cardiac and pediatric operating rooms. I’ve never before seen the inside of an operating room, but these are really cool – or hot as the case may be. The cardiac surgical suites can be cooled down to 60 degrees in a matter of minutes to help slow blood flow during surgery, while the pediatric suites can have their temperatures raised to 90 degrees to help premies and other infants maintain their body temperatures during surgery. Additionally, all the electronics for all the equipment are now just outside the operating rooms, separated by a large plate glass window. Having the electronic equipment out of the room helps keep the room temperature steady.
Overall, the most impressive thing about the tour was how well-behaved the three-year-old was throughout the whole thing, even not having a nap that day. The guides kept us moving at a quick enough pace that he didn’t have time to get bored, and almost every time we stopped to get a dose of information, there were places for him to sit down, and lots and lots of play tables! Several older ladies were in our group, and kept commenting on how good my little boy was being. They just could not get over how polite and patient he was being. When we got to the end of the tour and they gave us free t-shirts, he was so excited! You would have thought it was a big batch of gummy bears. All in all, if I ever have to be in the hospital again, I hope it is there. Even if I don’t get a free t-shirt.