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.
When I see these pictures of the work being done on the outdoor garden and play space I am reminded of something our president, Dr. Bob Connors, says often about the new children's hospital: "Kids need more than medicine to get well."
A child in the hospital does not stop being a child just because he or she is sick or injured. So creating a place where patients can enjoy fresh air and sunshine, beautiful plants and unique play things is just as important as the effort and resources we are putting into technology, equipment and medical care.
One of the strongest influences on my own parenting style came from a book titled, Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv. It talks about the importance of the outdoors for a child's well being.Have you ever noticed when you take your child outside they either run around because of the freedom of the outdoors or sometimes quietly explore something as simple and magnificent as a pattern on a leaf? I get this feeling as an adult too.Watching the clouds, feeling the breeze and breathing deeply can restore my balance after a hectic day of work, kids and life. I believe the garden we are building at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital will be a place to have these experiences.It is unnatural for a child to spend days in a room in a hospital and it is stressful for parents and siblings to be there to support their child. I hope that our families will enjoy the freedom and playfulness of the space and spend some time connecting with each other and nature.
Flowers, shrubs, bushes and trees will help celebrate nature in the midst of a city. The outdoor garden is equipped with electrical outlets so that children can plug in their portable infusion pumps while they enjoy the view and the toys.
The play equipment is interactive and I am looking forward to the sounds of laughter interspersed with the banging of bongo drums, and the chimes of the xylophone.
Access to the outdoor garden and play space will be through doors from the cafeteria on the west side of the building overlooking Bostwick Street. Already I am envisioning kids wheeling out to the patio to share lunch with their families.
There is so much happening with the new building right now. I wanted to provide you a quick photo update. Brief captions below each picture give you a glimpse of all the work happening inside as we prepare to care for our kids.
Artist Tracy Van Duinen and his team completed installation of the mosaic mural. Isn't it gorgeous?
A detail of the mural features beautiful flower images near the outdoor garden. The mirror mosaic pieces reflect amazing colors of light.
The mosaic mural is too big to show in one image, it measures 160 feet long by 19 feet high and covers more than 1,400 square feet.
A nursing station in the neonatal intensive care unit is nearly complete.
The surgical family lounge on level C provides a soothing atmosphere from the sounds and sights of a bubble wall.
Beautiful colors on the wall behind the reception desk will welcome families to the surgery area on level C.
Today while touring the 8th floor pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), one of my colleagues exclaimed, "Wow! This will be a show-stopping moment for the opening events tours."
He is a veteran of 20 years experience in children's hospitals so I took this as more validation that the PICU truly is an amazing space. It is an incredible blend of high technology and high touch care and amenities.
More than any area of the new Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, the PICU is personal for me.As I've mentioned before, our daughter was born with a serious heart defect eight years ago which landed her in the children's hospital pediatric intensive care unit at 8 days old. After years of care and open heart surgery she is a healthy, active child.That first night in the PICU was scary, but I will never forget one of the nurses who sat on the chair in the room and explained the situation to us until we understood. The caregivers in our critical care department have always provided wonderful, lifesaving care, and to think that they will now have an environment that matches their excellence is truly awe inspiring. There will be wonderful views of the sunrises and sunsets from the 16-foot high windows in each of the 24 patient rooms. Today, the construction and equipment leaders showed us how the rooms were designed so that the patient's bed can be arranged so the child can see out the window if they choose.For some children who have to stay in the PICU, this will be a wonderful treat. There will also be accommodations for parents to sleep in, a bathroom in each room and family space on the unit. The array of patient monitoring and therapeutic equipment is similar to what you would see in an operating room.
It will be a great environment of healing for the most critically ill and injured children, and for those kids who will be recovering from major surgery. The new PICU is eight beds larger than the current PICU, which will be important during trauma season, and also during the busier winter months when we treat many children with respiratory problems.
The new PICU is personal for the staff who will be working there too. Since January 11, 2010 when we started the one year countdown to opening day, the PICU staff has been delivering cakes and cookies to the construction crew on the 11th of each month. I had to smile when a PICU manager shared this story with me. She was picking up a cake inscribed with the message: "counting down the days to 1-11-11" and the baker said: "That's the day of the opening of the new children's hospital, you must be very proud."