A small stuffed teddy bear filled the bottom corner of an occupied crib in the infant intensive care untit at Children's Hospital. The toy was at least twice the size and weight of the premature baby it was intended to soothe. In another corner, three colorful mobiles moved lazily above the head of a second tiny patient.
Children's Hospital publishes several guides explaining their mission and philosophy. There's one for parents and patients, one for medical students seeking residency, and another titled "Information for Physicians."
The last pamphlet summarizes the hospital's purpose in providing a comfortable and familiar setting in concise terms: "The new Children's Hospital National Medical Center is created to provide the child with the most supportive atmosphere possible within a framework where health professionals can function with optimal efficiency."
Al Lawson, the director of development at the hospital, put it a little more simply. "We try to stimulate the normal development patterns of the infant or child itself. For example, the mobiles provide a focus point for the eyes of the child," he said. "Creating an atmosphere similar to what the child would experience in his own home is important to the recovery process."
The results of this attempt are evident everywhere one looks during a visit to Children's Hospital.
The importance of having the parents nearby is particulary emphasized.Most double rooms in the 260-bed facility are equipped with two parent beds. Disguised as couches or folded into wall closets, these beds allow the parent (or parents) to remain with their child overnight. Visiting hours are flexible, and there is a special overnight room for parents whose child is in a critical unit.
Children's also recognizes the necessity of normal play and exercise. Sixteen playrooms are located within the hospital. Each contains "highly functional" equipment for patients of all ages and medical conditions.
The same care goes into and is part of the medical staff at Children's Hospital. Over 700 full-time and attending physicians keep pace with the most sophisticated medical advances to improve the quality of care at the hospital. Pediatric specialists are available around the clock.
On my visit, I was struck by the friendliness I encountered at every step of the way. Even in the most critical units, parents were not excluded from the medical process, and were given the opportunity to understand the medical process intended for their child.
In one ward, I watched as a physician removed sutures from a healed wound on a baby's shoulder. The child's mother was allowed to hold her baby as the stitches were cut away. A nurse took a few photographs of the procedure to record the happy conclusion of an unfortunate accident.
The outstanding non-medical feature of Children's Hospital is the building itself. The structure is divided into quadrants, and each is color-coded to hlep orient the patients and staff as well as provide a bright and cheery atmosphere. Patients are "clustered" by surgical or medical needs. Support services and staff are located within easy access of the patients they serve.
One area that usually elicits comment from visitors is the inner court. Serving as the hospital's lobby, the court measure 60 feet square, and rises to a 90 foot high rooftop skylight. Natural sunlight and hanging plants create a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
The funds donated by District Liners during our annual fund drive are used only to provide care for indigent children of every race and creed. Funds for the building itself, staff salaries, and the operating costs of Children's Hospital come from other sources. We concern ourselves only with enabling the hospital to continue the services to the poor it has provided for the past 109 years.
Today, the mail pipeline has another handful of offerings to help fund the work being done at Children's Hospital.
The leters all came from individual contributors, which makes my struggle with the cordless abacus a little easier today. Letters containing checks came from 29 District Liners. The total of these contributions was $1,027.
Yesterday we had accumulated a total of $3,690.44 in the shoebox. Adding today's donations conculdes the first full week of the drive with a total of $4717.44 One week down and nine still to go. Bill tells me the pace will begin to pick up just before Christmas, but I'm starting to get a little nervous.
One reader captured my feelings on the subject in her letter. "Every year I just squeak by and get my check in on the very last day of the drive or I miss it completely. This year I am finally going to be early."
Well done, friend. Now, let's hear from the rest of you.