All of the players were in place.
Phoenix Children’s Hospital top brass. Community leaders. Patients, families and friends.
A stage for local TV stations with their tripods and cameras.
CEO Bob Meyer strapped on a back-pack style safety vest.
Meyer climbed in to the basket of a blue cherry picker attached to a large crane, taking along a giant pair of red-handled scissors.
With a dramatic unfurling of the Kitchell Construction banner placed front and center to hang from the basket, Meyer ascended toward the huge red ribbon wrapped around the façade of the new eleven story patient tower. A couple of snips, and the ribbon fell away as the crowd cheered.
It’s a massive project. The expansion will grow the hospital from 345 beds to 465 beds and on to 625 when the full build-out is completed in 2013.
With more beds, a larger facility, and room for state-of-the-art technology such as Arizona’s first 256-slice CT scanner, PCH is poised to meet the demands of Arizona’s pediatric population boom.
PCH Chief of Critical Care, Dr. Heidi Dalton, says the expansion not only brings more room for privacy for families, hi-tech communications systems for staff, and enough beds to serve sick kids—in the past, at times the hospital had to turn kids away – but that it also has begun to attract top doctors from other areas outside the state.
Dalton, recruited from a career in Washington, D.C., is thrilled with the clinical research she’ll be able to do in a stand-alone hospital, with more resources than what many doctors find available in academic positions at hospitals associated with universities.
“It’s allowed me to bring a vision…my own vision as the chief, to what we’re going to become. We have every sub-specialist known to man here –even more than in D.C. It’s awesome for the Valley.”
Stephanie Peterson visited with her son Chance, 6, to watch the ribbon cutting. Chance recently had surgery at PCH for a kidney blockage.
“We’ve been in and out of E.R.’s all his life, we’ve gotten so many different stories of belly aches, constipation. It was the doctors here that finally listened to me, and finally fixed him. Between urology and nephrology — within weeks, he had surgery.”
Stephanie says the single rooms, with their privacy and quiet, will make a huge difference for families and kids. “I’m a little jealous- the private rooms would have been amazing. Trying to share a room with another child can be rowdy, it can be difficult- some are quiet, some are not.”
Chance has recovered and will likely not remember too much about his experience, but Stephanie thinks he’ll always know that he doesn’t have to be afraid of medical procedures because of the way doctors and nurses approached his care.
“He knows how to sit back and let them do what they need to do for him. The way they treated him…they talked to him like a little person– not just a child that they needed to hold down and do something to. That was an amazing thing.”
Buddy Padilla, 14, a PCH patient who also sits on the Children’s Advisory Board (CAB) said that patient perspectives were considered during the expansion. “And that’s different from what the parents experience.”
Buddy, who was born with a rare chronic disorder that affects the intestinal tract (most kids don’t survive this particular illness past age one) offers first-hand knowledge to PCH about how patients are affected by gastro-intestinal issues and procedures. “We are going to have input, we are going to try our best to help out with this hospital, too.”
Yeira Hernandez, 7, climbed out of the back of a Phoenix Fire truck with the CAB members to watch Meyer elevate to cut the ribbon. Yeira copes with digestive problems and is being treated at PCH.
Her mom, Yanet, carefully managed Yeira’s I.V. tubes, which prevented Yeira from swirling around in her rainbow skirt.
Yeira wasn’t too chatty this morning for our interview. But that’s okay. The word on her shirt tells you everything you need to know about her.
It was a big day to celebrate- with confetti, fire engines, and a flying CEO.
Especially for anyone who understands what research, a new facility, and a crew of caring professionals truly mean to a little girl and her mom.
“A big hospital makes a big difference,” said Yanet, “because of the hope that it brings for cures and treatments.”
All photos by Daniel Friedman.
©Raising Arizona Kids Magazine