Praise for a family-centered facility

Having a son with hydrocephalus means that we are frequent visitors to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Josh is often in the emergency room, when we suspect that there could be a problem with the shunt that drains the excess cerebrospinal fluid from his brain to his abdomen. He has regular MRIs, as well as appointments with physicians in various departments, such as neurosurgery, ophthalmology, urology, neurology and gastroenterology.

I am also on the Family Advisory Council at the hospital, so our family is very excited about the opening of the long-awaited new hospital facility.

The Family Advisory Council was given a sneak peak at the new building last month and I was enormously impressed from the moment we stepped in the door. The new facility was built as a “Family-Centered Care Environment” and it’s obvious that the whole family was taken into account in the design.

The first stop on our tour was the new Family Resource Center, which will provide Internet access, reference materials and referrals to support groups. I could see that it will be a popular place for parents to learn more about their child’s illness or injury.

Right next door is the HBO Café, the new cafeteria, which opens out onto a play area created by Shane’s Inspiration. I have a feeling that these two spots will be Josh’s favorite parts of the hospital.

We visited a couple of the patient rooms, 85% of which are private. The rooms have double foldout daybeds that will allow both parents to stay overnight, and a bathroom with a shower.

During one of Josh’s hospital stays a few years ago, at the height of flu season, he was in a room with three other children. There was little privacy and it was quite noisy with several televisions blaring, families talking and staff periodically coming in.

Even at other times when Josh has been in rooms with only one other child, I’ve had to sleep (or not) on a less than comfortable chair-bed. The old rooms didn’t have family bathrooms, so parents had to use the restroom and shower down the hall.

The new family-centered rooms will mean that parents can get some rest and have more energy to help their child get better. For the child, it will mean that there will be space for their parents and siblings to be with them.

Now, if Josh is hospitalized, his twin sister will be able to spend time with him playing or doing homework together. In addition, the rooms will have Internet access, so the kids can keep in touch with their friends through e-mail.

There are several events planned to celebrate the opening of the new hospital building on July 10.

Among them are a “Turn on the Lights!” 5K walk on April 30, which will include a pre-sunset 5K walk for kids from the Griffith Park area to CHLA and a street party and lighting celebration on Sunset Boulevard with music, food and a spectacular light show.

For more information, visit chla.org/walk.

On May 7 will be the “Dream for Kids: The Grand Opening Gala,” expected to attract many of the city’s top philanthropists, leaders and celebrities, along with key representatives of local, regional and national government.

As much as we hope that Josh won’t have to spend time in the hospital, the reality is that he will likely be a patient again. We’re thankful that this new state-of-the art facility is there for him when he needs it.

SHARON RAGHAVACHARY is on the steering committee for Crescenta Valley Community Assn. and a member of the Family Advisory Council for Children's Hospital Los Angeles. She may be reached at sharonchary@gmail.com.

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