May 15, 2013
MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital comes of age
BY Gail Goodwin
A stay in the hospital is not on most kids' top 10 list, but it's often a necessity for young cancer patients. Now, the redesigned and expanded MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital will make stays easier on children.
When the idea to expand the Children's Cancer Hospital and centralize its services became a reality, pediatric caregivers on the Family Advisory Council began to work hand-in-hand with the architects and hospital staff. They considered everything from pod names to colors to furniture to floor layout.
The result: mood lighting, plasma TV screens and a basketball goal down the hall ‒ which may sound like a child's idea of a dream vacation. The good news is that the innovative treatment that is synonymous with cancer care at MD Anderson is still part of the plan.
Each patient still receives care from a multidisciplinary team of specialists who partner with families to provide the best comprehensive care for their children. Patients will be able to receive infusion therapy and inpatient services, including intermediate and intensive care, all on the same floor - a first among area children's hospitals.
The best gets better
"We're members of a club no one wants to be a part of," says Family Advisory Council (FAC) member Missy Ramirez. "From the beginning of our son's cancer treatment, my husband and I realized that we had the best. Little did we know that it could get even better."
Fellow FAC member Jerry Mortus adds, "It's wonderful to be part of a process that you know a lot of people will benefit from. We had a lot of opinions, but we were able to bring together all of our perspectives to help design this floor."
With the Brenda and Howard Johnson Pediatric Ambulatory Treatment Center now located on G9, patients can receive outpatient chemotherapy and other treatments lasting from one hour or more here. Multimedia entertainment, wireless Internet access and seating for family members are part of this area.
And, there's more. The floor also has its own pharmacy and laundry area. The Hoglund Foundation PediDome remains, but is now divided into three separate areas for three different purposes ‒ the teen room, an activity room and the Vara Martin Daniel Children's Play Park.
Members of the hospital's teen advisory council and young adult advisory council also weighed in on the new unit. Wanting to illustrate their support, the teen council created a special mosaic that is displayed on one of the floor's main hallways.
Maintaining as much normalcy as possible
A 21st century fully accredited school provides support in all core academic areas to school-age patients and will keep everyone on grade level with classmates from their home schools.
This fully interactive classroom includes an interactive teaching board, remote interactive boards, laptops, electronic tablets, closed-circuit programming for all pediatric patient areas and distance learning opportunities. This is the classroom of the future. Aside from being a room with a view, patients can experience a full range of normal school activities from field trips to field day.
Ronald McDonald House Houston also has a much larger footprint on the floor. This foundation will staff and run a family kitchen, two sleep rooms, a family lounge and a family/intensive care waiting room complete with coffee, light snacks, an aquarium, a computer/printer, telephone and more.
Nearly ready to welcome patients
While it was years in the making, the redesigned and expanded MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital is almost ready to open its doors. The entire G9 floor is now home to the Children's Cancer Hospital and will see its first patients move in a few weeks.
Members of the hospital's advisory councils and community supporters recently got to visit the new space, and many left with smiles and happy tears.
"When my daughter was a patient here, the rooms were just hospital rooms," says Mortus. "I think that the patients will really enjoy the new design. The light features, the overall warm atmosphere is more inviting and more comfortable for patients and their families ‒ it takes everyone's minds off of why they are really here."
This project, which began as a wish, as a hope, has finally become a completed reality that excites everyone who had a hand in its creation.