The new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan marks a new era of children's health care. Trillium Hibbeln shares behind-the-scenes insights from her unique perspective as a mom who served as project leader during the planning, construction and transition into the new children's hospital.
For those of you have been following our progress for the past 11 months, this week it gets very real. You are invited to come see the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in a special Community Day on December 4.
Follow that link for all you need to know and to schedule your visit. Please call our special telephone line: 616.776.9626 so you can reserve your tour. We want to make sure everyone has an exceptional experience during their visit.
You can also forward the Community Day preview link to your friends on Facebook or other social media such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
Today we began orientation sessions and tours for the staff who will be volunteering during opening events. There has been an amazing outpouring of staff from throughout Spectrum Health who have signed up to assist.
I was leading a tour this morning and asked my group of 15 how many were going to be working in the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. Only a few people people raised their hands. The rest were Spectrum Health colleagues from throughout the system.
I felt gratified that so many people share our excitement about what this new children's hospital will mean for kids and families that they are volunteering during their work time to help "show off" our new building.
Community Day will be your best opportunity to go "behind the scenes" and experience parts of the building you will never see unless you are a patient or the parent of one. It really is an amazing asset and resource for our community and our state. I can't wait to share it with you.
I have been meaning to tell you about a big milestone on our project that I missed being part of and how I learned another lesson of what a great team we have.
On November 16 we conducted an exercise to practice what it would be like to move patients from the current children's hospital space to the new hospital.
This "mock move" involved months of planning and preparation. A team led by nurse managers Gretchen Koeman and Sue Teman and Spectrum Health's disaster preparedness director Julie Bulson coordinated the efforts of dozens of staff members from nursing, respiratory therapy, patient transport, facilities, security and child life.
Their assignment: how to move about 100 children across two hospital wings, down several elevators, through busy patient care areas and safely into the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.
Children get moved around quite a bit already in our current children's hospital. They traverse the hospital buildings for diagnostic tests, sedation procedures, and to and from the operating rooms.
But, moving children on 1-11-11 is not expected to be a normal transport. Some of the kids are expected to be medically fragile, needing respiratory support, diagnostic monitoring, control of their pain, and reassurance that it will be safe and even fun.
The mock move team enlisted the help of students from Zion Christian School to practice. The students were each given a role to play: with information sheets for staff that the "patient" was of a certain age, with a particular diagnosis, and needing a certain level of support from nursing or respiratory therapists.
And there was another wrinkle, our communications team had invited the news media to cover the event, so we were all "on stage" in real time.
The week before the mock move, I was scheduled for a long planned trip out of the country, but had arranged to be back on the day of the exercise to observe from the "command post."
Alas, airplane trouble stranded me in Florida, so I had to follow the exercise via text messages on my smartphone.
I received the message that the first patient moved smoothly along the route and arrived safely in the new children's hospital in 10 minutes.
It was an emotional moment in the command post for the team monitoring the drill, one nurse said she was moved to tears, and soon everyone got a little misty eyed that it was all going according to plan.
In all about two dozen "patients" were moved safely and the exercise was deemed a success.
And I realized yet again that the hard work and preparation that all of staff has put in together over the last year is paying off. We have established a solid team who cover for each other, support each other, and are ready to open the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital on 1-11-11.
How many times have you seen your child howl in pain for something you can't believe hurts that much? Or, remember seeing your child get anxious and tearful just thinking about how much a vaccination might hurt?
Kids feel pain differently, and the anxiety and anticipation in their minds are often worse than the actual pain. As a parent, I think seeing your child in pain is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting.If only we could take it for them!
Sometimes kids are too young to really be able to tell how much pain they feel. Imagine asking a child how much something hurts on a scale of one to 10. So we use a special "pain scale" of pictures of children's faces, and ask them to point to the face that most closely matches how much pain they feel.
At Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, our philosophy is that as much as possible pain should be eliminated or controlled. Sometimes distraction helps, such as when a child life specialist encourages a child to "blow away the pain" into a pinwheel or by blowing bubbles while an injection is taking place.
In the emergency department our staff members use a quick acting analgesic device called a "JTip" that quickly numbs the skin to prevent the pain of injections.
For painful or invasive procedures a sedation team administers medicine that eliminates the pain and the memory of the event. More than 5,000 children a year receive sedation for procedures at the children's hospital.
I'll never forget the relief I felt at the moment when I realized that my daughter, while being wheeled off for surgery, was actually comfortable and happy because of some light sedation she had received.In fact, she was blowing bubbles as they took her to her surgery.If we make it easier for kids, it's also easier for the parents.
What experiences have you had with your child in pain, and what do you wish could have been done differently?
I just saw some unusual art work in the new children's hospital that caught my eye and found out there is a great story that goes with it.
The hallways on Floor C outside radiology feature some amazing images of robots made out of medical supplies. Diane Sinsabaugh, a pharmacist in our pediatric hematology/oncology program, brainstormed ideas with our art consultants at LaFontsee Galleries and decided to "recycle" used items from the pharmacy.
Diane and her coworkers in the pharmacy began saving materials they usually discarded, such as empty syringes (without the needles of course), tubing, pill boxes and other packaging materials, even plastic scissors.
Then Diane and the kids went to work creating the robots. No two robots are alike and it is nice to see some three dimensional artistic elements at work here behind the beautiful frames.
I know kids and families will enjoy seeing these unique pieces and all the other art work on display. I can't help but smile at the thought that our clinical staff are demonstrating their enthusiasm for the new building through their creative involvement with the children's art project.
We recently began tours for staff and physicians who will be working in the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. What fun for me to see the facility through their eyes!
Because our staff know the children who will be patients, the child-like enthusiasm of their reactions are wonderful to see and hear about from my friends and colleagues who are guiding the tours.
It starts right in the lobby of course.
Some nurses who toured the building one night were captivated by the huge mosaic mural.
Cell phone cameras came out and the nurses started snapping pictures, first of the mural, then of each other in front of the mural.
Then, their attention turned downward to the colorful patterns on the floor, and they noticed that the circles changed color when you step on them.
An impromptu "Zumba" dance broke out and their smiles and laughter and delight was infectious.
The nurses inspected the private patient rooms with a practiced eye, admiring the layout, the décor, and played with the new cribs and beds. They sat in the comfy chairs and tested the couches that convert to double beds for parents. The children's art work got rave reviews about what a great environment for healing it would foster throughout the facility.
Child life manager Jodi Bauers told me about the experience of two of her special volunteers she took on a brief tour. Kevin Heys, whogreets guests from his wheelchair in the hospital lobby and his mom Gwen, are champions of Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in many ways.Kevin was in awe of the new building as he cruised through the lobby in his powerchair.Gwen said she is so very happy for the kids and families to have this incredible, beautiful place to receive care. Kevin left with a huge smile on his face. It was pretty remarkable to get to see the hospital through Kevin's eyes - if only a glimpse, Jodi said.
I have heard similar comments from my colleagues who are conducting tours. One said, "I wish I could be a full time tour guide, it gets me so pumped up to see and hear the staff. Their 'wow factor' is pretty high."
If you were hospitalized as a child, I bet you remember it vividly.From my daughter's heart surgery experience, her most vivid memories are of having her blood drawn and how the nurses put stickers in her journal.
Imagine what a hospital looks like to your child. There is scary looking equipment, different sounds, people wearing masks and asking you questions. You aren't sleeping in your own bed, and being sick and taking medicine make you feel different than normal.
Children think differently than adults, so they need help understanding what to expect and to have their fears calmed with simple explanations in terms they understand.
Our pediatric specialists are trained to understand the ways kids think, and how to help them cope. You as parents and family members have a role too of course, because you understand your child better than anyone.
The world of a child is largely defined by their own experience, so they may think they are sick because they did something wrong. One of my friends told me he was in a line of traffic taking his daughter to the children's hospital for a dentist appointment and she asked, "is everyone going to the children's hospital, daddy?"
One of the ways that we made our daughter's experience more positive during heart surgery was by having her create a journal of her experiences.In this journal, I wrote down things she said (Like, "today, I'm going to get my heart fixed so I can run fast).
I had friends and the children's hospital staff and write Sofina a note in the journal.When the nurses gave Sofina stickers for being brave she and I put those in the journal together. Later I included pictures Sofina had painted in the playroom and photos I had taken.
To this day, Sofina is incredibly proud of this journal and continues to share it.She brought it to school again this year during "about me" time and showed her friends how brave and special she is.
Our staff believes that a traumatic hospital experience can mark a child for life, and a good experience, in which a child feels comfortable and safe, can be life changing.
I have noticed so many times when kids come back for follow up appointments and they are happy to see the staff who cared for them at the children's hospital.
What examples can you share about the way your kids think differently?