At 9:21 yesterday morning the word reached unit 3-C of Children's Hospital: "They're ready for Matthew."
And with his mother watching, Matthew Prosek, 7 months old, was lifted on to wheeled stretcher, strapped down and rolled down the hallway on the first leg of his brief trip of a few blocks to the new $58 million Children's Hospital National Medical Center on Michigan Avenue NW.
Matthew, who entered the old Children's about a week ago with a severe case of meningitis, was the first of the hospital's 71 patients to be moved yesterday from the cramped, dingy, old 101-year-old facility at 13th and W Streets NW to the striking new hospital.
With its angular reflective glass facade, wide, sunny, carpeted and brightly colored corridors, 90-foot-ceilinged central courtyard and magnificent views of the McMillan Reservoir and the city, the new hospital is as foreign to the old as the old hospital was to the town house based dispensary it replaced.
But Matthew was oblivious to all that yesterday as he was placed in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase rescue squad ambulance for his trip to room 30-160 in the new hospital.
Dr. Rita Gluck, who rode the ambulance with Matthew and his mother, just as a physician rode with every patient being transferred, tickled the infant during the ride. "Isn't this exciting? Isn't this exciting?" She asked Matthew, whose response was to giggle and chew his fingers.
As Matthew was rolled into his new room his mother looked about her and told him, "This is beautiful, you're going to like your second week a lot bet [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCES]
Although Matthew was oblivious to it, yesterday's transfer of patients was a major undertaking, involving the Bethesda-Chevy Chase ambulances, Northern Virginia Ambulance Service, the D.C. fire and police departments, Walter Reed Hospital, the National Institute of Health, and the Army and the Air Force, all of which provided transport vehicles ranging from what looked like the lowliest Army ambulances to a super sohisticated Medevac Bus complete with oxygen outlets and respirators.
The operation went without a hitch, but hospital officials were nervous anyway."We're not in the transportation business," said Dr. Peter Holbrook, chief of the hospital's intensive care nit and medical director of the move. The best you can do on a move like this is break even. This move wasn't medically indicated for any patient."
To make the transfer of patients it was necessary to staff both hospitals.
There were 24 physicians on duty at the old Children's Hospital yesterday morning and 28 onduty at the new facility! There was a complement of 110 nurses split between the two facilities and both hospitals had 10-member "code 99" cardiac resucitation teams on call.
The number of patients at the hospital yesterday was low because physicians have been cutting back on elective surgery and admissions, postponed whatever they could until after the transfer. "Nobody was sent home early," said Holbrook. "We'd much rather move them then send them out early."
On a normal June day the hospital would have had about 100 patients. And during the winter, in the flu and pneumonia season, the count gets as high as 170.
By 1 p.m. yesterday the move was completed. The freshly painted hall was ready echoed with the sounds of crying babies. Children were playing and eating their lunches in the large, light-bathed combination play/dining areas. Physicians and nurses were at work in the nurseries. And the new hospital had had its first new admission, a child suffering from seizures.
The new facility certainly provides a better environment for hoth patients and staff. But many staff members say they will miss the old hospital.
"It's kind of like home," siad Dr. Gluck, who is just completing the third year of her residency at Children's and put in countless days and nights there as a George Washington University medical school student.
"It was a warm place and everybody there was part of a family. This'll be a nice but . . . Everybody's so spread out, and we won't be part of the inner ciyt. There's always sadness when you leave a place you knowwell."