Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Los Feliz is aware of the cluster of hospitals on Sunset Blvd. near Vermont Ave. One of those hospitals is Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles, a giant resource in pediatrics right on our collective doorsteps, so to speak.
The hospital is currently undertaking a fundraising effort dubbed “Los Feliz – A Communities That Cares”. The main goal is funding construction of the new Patient Tower near the corner of Sunset Blvd and Lyman Place, which is set to open in 2010. This spring a group of LFIA Board members visited the hospital. Here is Hilary Misiano’s account of the tour:
I had been at this hospital before with my son Theo. He was one and a half at the time and had been throwing up, unable to keep anything down for four days. I decided to take him to the ER when he became lethargic and motionless. I loaded Theo in the car and made my way down Vermont to Childrens Hospital. In the lobby I went over to the security guard and without asking, he gave me a pass and directed me to the emergency room. I can only imagine what we looked like, Theo listless and me freaked out. By the time I made it down what seemed like a mile-long hallway to the Emergency Department I thought I was going to drop to the floor but I knew I couldn’t. Theo ended up staying in the ER and on an IV for over six hours. The nurses and doctors were so nice and gentle. They would come quietly into the room to check on him trying not to disturb us.
In the next six months, Theo visited the ER at Childrens two more times, once for croup and another for stomach flu. Each visit, although stressful on our family, was made easier by the fact that I knew we were in a great hospital. I have two sisters, one is a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s Hospital Boston and the other a pediatrician in private practice and they both rave about what a great facility Childrens is. On one visit to the ER, the doctors wanted to enter Theo into an IV study. I really had no idea what that meant, but my sister, the one who’s the regular old pediatrician, told me it was a good thing. It meant that they would pay even more attention to Theo than they did before.
Years later, when we went on our tour, I was excited. It was interesting to see the hospital from a different perspective and, to be honest, I never noticed the cute drawings by the kids or the animal themes at the elevators when I was there with my son. We made our way to the Center for Newborn and Infant Critical Care or CNICC. Even though I knew we would be going there, I was not prepared for what I saw. We peeked through windows into a room where 5 or 6 doctors and nurses were operating on a tiny baby. The amount of equipment was amazing and astounding. The parents of the baby watched through the glass windows in the hall as the doctors and nurses repaired their baby’s bowel. As I stood in the CNICC looking at all those beautiful babies who were struggling to live and the doctors and nurses who rushed quietly around to try to take care of them, I was deeply moved, in ways that are difficult to express. We were allowed to go inside another room and see the babies up close. They were all so little and beautiful, each one with their own challenges. Back in the hallway we were shown the memorial wall. It’s covered with pictures of babies some of whom made it and are living happy strong lives and some of whom didn’t and passed away. Brenda, the nurse who gave us our tour of this unit, was obviously very smart and experienced but there was a great warmth and compassion in her eyes that I imagine has comforted a lot of families.
As we made our way through the hospital, we passed many sick children in the halls and as a mother and a human being it’s hard to see it all and not be affected. My son has only spent one and a half days in the hospital and I had a very difficult time with that. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the families of these kids who have to be in the hospital for an average of 8 days. But the staff at Childrens clearly has the kids and their families in mind. They have a group of people called Child Life Specialists who work to make sure the kids are spoken to in such a way that doesn’t scare them or threaten them. Instead of saying “We’re going to take some blood” they may say “we’re going to check your blood to make sure it’s healthy.” I remember when my son was there the nurse went to take his blood pressure and he was scared. The nurse showed him the tourniquet and explained that “it was going to give him a little hug” and calmed him down. We still tell Theo that he’s going to get a hug whenever someone wants to take his blood pressure. There are eight play rooms around the hospital and there’s even is a lounge dedicated to the teen population at the hospital. The teen lounge and the play rooms are staffed by Child Life Specialists and by volunteers. On our tour we saw some volunteers playing music, roaming the halls and going from room to room to entertain the little patients.
Our last stop was a life size model of one of the new private rooms in the new Patient Tower. The new building will add more that 80 rooms, most of which will be private affording the families to stay close to their sick children. There different furnishings have been tried out, among them comfortable, yet easy to clean couches and ergonomic nightstands.
When we ended our tour and said goodbye to our guides, I thought to myself, “God willing Theo never has to come back here. But if he does, I know we are in good hands and they are just down the street.”
Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles is indeed a tremendous pediatric resource. Each year the hospital admits 11,000 patients who under the age of 18, performs 14,000 surgeries on children, and receives 64,000 visits to its Emergency Department. It provides primary healthcare to the surrounding community, including Los Feliz, and is a leader in pediatric health on a much bigger level: It is a pediatric trauma center for Los Angeles County, and treats critically ill children from an additional 7 counties in Southern California, as well as from Nevada and Hawaii.
Among the medical specialties found at the hospital are cardiothoracic surgery, including heart and lung transplants, oncology, orthopedics and the treatment of diabetes. The hospital’s research center is among the biggest in the nation, and has close to 100 investigators working on 200 projects. Childrens Hospital has been affiliated with USC’s Keck School of Medicine since 1932, and is a leader in pediatric nurse training.
The new patient building is needed to meet the legal requirement that the hospital remains fully operational in a major earthquake. It will also accommodate the enormous progresses made in pediatric care since the current patient wing was opened in 1968. In this new setting faster, safer and more comprehensive care will be delivered, and families can remain closer to their children.
The hospital is run by a stand-alone nonprofit foundation, serves a diverse community and is committed to treat critically ill children regardless of their ability to pay. There is no cap on the number of MediCal patients, who make up 75% of its clientele.
Childrens Hospital deserves our support, in any possible way. The hospital needs volunteers to help with all kinds of tasks, both clerical as well as in direct contact with patients and their families. To find out more about volunteering at the hospital visit their website or call the Volunteer Services Office at (323) 361-2371. Financial support is needed to fund the new patient tower, as well as research and continued operation support. To find out how to give contact the hospital’s Karen Wirick at (323) 361-1711.