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.
My friend Jodi Bauers, CCLS, is one of our team of child life specialists whose job is to make the hospital experience fun for kids. Fun at a hospital? Who would have thought it possible?
There is a lot more to it than play and fun of course. Jodi and her team of 16 are all specialists in child development. Their job is to help kids cope with and understand what they are going through.
Child life specialists prepare kids for what to expect in terms they understand. They use "medical play" to let children experience in advance what it feels like to wear an anesthesia mask, or to have an MRI exam.
Any of us who was hospitalized as a child is likely to have a vivid memory of that experience. Jodi tells me that a traumatic hospital experience can mark a child for life, while a good experience can make a lasting good impression.
It starts with the child life specialist working with the child's health care team, and getting to know the child and the family. "We learn the family's story, and understand how the child learns and processes information." Jodi and her team take note of the child's age and developmental status and design an approach that may use play or even "guided imagery" to prepare a child for a procedure.
One of Jodi's colleagues, Shauna Boughey, CCLS, works with children in radiology. Imagine getting a wiggly four year old to lie still for 45 minutes in an MRI machine, a long noisy tube that can be claustrophobic. Some children need to be sedated during such an exam. Shauna has become adept at helping kids lie still by watching a movie wearing video goggles, or by teaching them the "freeze game" and using guided imagery to help the child imagine a calm peaceful place.
It is all about helping the child have some control over what is happening, giving them choices, and encouraging the child and family. Helping the parents to be prepared, and cope and role model for the child is just as important.
Child life services are typically found only at children's hospitals and we are so fortunate to have such a great team of advocates for the children in our care. A recent Grand Rapids Press profile of child life specialist Rhys VanDemark is a terrific example of the impact a child life specialist can have on children in the hospital.
Do you have a story to share about an experience with child life?
I have a few years to go before my children are teenagers (thank goodness) as they are only 10 and 8 years old now.
Some people think a children's hospital is "just for little kids" but that is a serious misconception.
Teens and preteens (or "tweens") need experts trained not only in the unique medical and developmental issues of adolescence. They need professionals trained in how to talk with and care for kids at this vulnerable time.
Our adolescent medicine team of board certified specialists is specially trained in caring for kids who are dealing with health issues that previously were common for people in their 20s. All of our physicians and employees are skilled at taking care of kids from 0-18 and making each one feel completely at home and understood.
Complex issues such as chronic diseases, ADHD, depression, mood disorders, reproductive and sexual health problems, and even domestic violence are just some of the challenges our physicians treat teens for and help them cope with.
Confidentiality is key with teens: while parents are included in their teen's care plan, there is also time for one-on-one private conversations between teen and doctor. "We've created a safe zone," says adolescent medicine specialist Lisa Lowery, MD.
What teen doesn't crave that?
It means involving a multidisciplinary team of caregivers including social workers and using a multi-media approach to "keep it real" for the teen patients.
When you are in the new hospital you will also notice that we didn't fill it with cartoon characters or other things that would make a teen feel like they didn't fit in. The décor is just as appropriate for teens as it is for little kids.
What are some of the health challenges you are facing with your teen and how are you coping?
The sonorous thumping of a drum filled the air, followed by the soft whistle of a flute. A song of prayer washed over me, then came the gentle recitation of a blessing.
I stood reverently in the corner watching and listening on the floor 8 pediatric critical care unit.
A Native American healer played the drum and flute as he went room to room. A Greek Orthodox priest sang hymns. An African American preacher stretched his arms wide, then clasped his hands in prayer, softly speaking his blessings.
Similar blessings were taking place on every floor of the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital and I could feel the collective power of the faith leaders assembled.
More than 50 religious leaders from the region participated in the multi-faith blessing, coordinated by Spectrum Health manager of pastoral care, The Reverend Steve Van Heest.I felt I could see a story in every face and I marveled at the diversity of race and gender and their dress and customs. Some wore resplendent robes, stoles and hats, others wore formal suits and collar. A cantor played a harmonium, an ancient instrument that looked like an accordion in a box.
First Rev. Van Heest gathered the clergy together in the lobby and lead the group in a responsorial prayer. (Read the prayer.)
The harmony of their voices filled the space as they prayed together. Then in small groups they went off to follow Rev. Van Heest's directive: bless each floor, each room, each healing space, all of the equipment and instruments of care. Each faith leader was invited to perform this blessing according to their own traditions.
Later when the clergy gathered in the floor 11 chapel Rev. Van Heest asked each to offer a one word wish: "peace," "healing," "community," "caring," were some of the wishes I heard.
Then I noticed the beautiful blue of the sky through the chapel skylight and felt all of the prayers and wishes for our new children's hospital had been heard.I felt that the building was fuller than it had been earlier that day and definitely more ready for our youngest, most vulnerable patients to enter its doors to be healed.
After all of these months of planning, we have finally been able to welcome the community to see our new home.We have been astounded at the turnout.We have all really enjoyed talking with moms, kids, grandmas and neighbors about how lucky we are to have a place like this in West Michigan.
A few of my favorite moments were:
Seeing a teenager try on a goofy dog mask in the gift shop
Watching a two year old girl put her ear up to the bubble wall to hear the sounds
Watching grown men laugh and play with the interactive wall
Hearing our employees beam with pride as they told the stories of the care they give
As you might imagine, one of the best moments was when I was able to show my own family what I have been working on.My husband, son, daughter, mother, father, brother and sister-in-law all came for employee family night on Sunday.I was able to bring Sofina, our eight year old, earlier in the afternoon to "volunteer."She helped CJ answer phones in our command post, which was very fun.At one point, CJ was calling in pretend phone calls and Sofina was answering like a pro.
We had a touching moment when we took the kids down to the surgery and cath lab areas.There, Sofina played with a doll that opens up at the chest to see where the organs are located.Ryan was working at that station and he told her how his own child had also had open heart surgery. We talked about how she was only one year old when she visited the cath lab.
All throughout the evening, Sofina was happy and having a great time.On our way home, I looked in the backseat and saw that she was crying.I asked her what was wrong and she said, "I can't believe I survived all of that, mom.I'm glad you work there.It's ok if you're not always home."
I have to thank my kids and my family for their support during this very busy time.Many employees are working long hours to prepare the hospital for opening.I hope all of their families also realize what a special opportunity we all have to be part of this.This really is a special place!
We had our first major donor event for the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital last night. I was impressed with the overwhelming support from our generous community, as evidenced by the people who came last night. Each one seemed truly connected to the mission of the hospital.
Some donors told me stories of their own children or grand children who had been sick and needed care. Another family said how fortunate they felt that their children and grandchildren were healthy and that is why they gave. I still can't believe that over 6,000 people gave gifts small and large to make this happen. We are so lucky to live in such a wonderful place!
Tomorrow at 10:30am we will dedicate this new building. As our guests public begin to tour the building, meet our experts and learn more, they will see why we are all so proud of what our community has built.
Dr. Connors tells a story of how kids view health care. They say," heal me, don't hurt me and be nice to me. " It sounds like a simple request, but it takes a lot of talented people who concentrate on these three things every day to make it come true.
Can't wait to meet you all at Community Day this Saturday. Have you called for your reservation yet? We want to make sure you have a wonderful experience. Bring comfortable shoes (because it's a big place) and come share our excitement!
They were the first thing I saw when I walked into the Sallie Bender Guild Gift Shop this afternoon.
"Glow in the dark spaghetti string."
The gift shop in the lobby of the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital is fully stocked with 4,000 different items, 20,000 pieces in all and ready for business during opening events this week.
I wandered around between meetings and found so many things I will be putting on my holiday shopping list for my kids.
The store is beautifully designed and displayed with large stuffed animals, and other decorative items. Monkey puppets hang off the columns around the cashier checkout desk. A comfy cubby provides a quiet place to sit and flip through the pages of a book.
Bins full of small items will be sure to attract the kids. I bet I could give both of mine a few dollars to pick out things they like.
A lovely yellow princess dress caught my eye. I thought, "what fun it would be to dress up in the hospital and pretend you were in a land of make believe."
Friendly looking fuzzy monster slippers, soft, warm hats labled "be kind," and tiny preemie jammies reminded me of what a great source of comfort these things will be to our patients.
An important feature will be the "discover safety" section of products designed to keep kids safe at home, at play and on the way. Our Safe Kids program consulted on the selection of these items that will help child proof any home.
I liked the colorful box of "ouchies" bandages too and then I saw the spiral bound journal booklets and thought of the journal we kept during my daughter, Sofina's hospitalization for open heart surgery.
Check out the pictures above which really help tell the story. But even better: make plans to come see the new gift shop yourself on Community Day and be ready to shop.