Today I had the privilege to take a tour of the new Golisano Children's Hospital here in Rochester. A new eight-floor stand-alone hospital opened up in July, adjacent to the rest of the University of Rochester Medical Center. It's been a work in progress for many years, and the first phase is now open. The second phase is in progress that will enhance some of the offerings in the hospital, and they're already thinking about phase three, which will add a couple floors to the building. To see it for yourself, you can take a tour here.
Even though I don't fundraise directly for the hospital, I work with people in our immediate group that do. One of the upper level bosses suggested that some of us newbies head over for a tour to see everything, and I was very excited to go. I had a feeling that I might get a little emotional since I've had so many friends who spent considerable time at the original children's hospital. I knew that the one garden has a butterfly plaque with my friends' daughter's name on it. But I wasn't really prepared for just how emotional the tour would be.
We started out in the garden where Amanda's butterfly hangs on a wall. The outdoor healing garden is named for the daughter of a local news anchor that was born with serious complications and battled through them, only to pass away from complications from a surgery right around her first birthday. Names on butterflies, leaves on a tree, and benches throughout the garden honor donors and memorialize those that have passed away. The outdoor space is so peaceful, but I definitely choked up at the site of Amanda's name. She is the daughter of friends of mine from college. She battled cancer so bravely for a few years before passing away last winter. They spent so much time at the old children's hospital for her treatments, and have remained active, despite their grief, in raising money and awareness of childhood cancer.
We walked back into the beautiful main lobby and marveled at the warm, colorful setting and the adorable children's furniture in the main waiting room. As we looked, a couple came out from a hallway with their tiny baby, fresh from the NICU, in the carseat on the way to be discharged. The baby was so little you could barely see it in the carrier from an angle. It was still so curled up and tiny! We got to see a sibling clubhouse, a fun spot for small siblings to go play while their family is occupied upstairs. We also got to see a Ronald McDonald lounge, which, much like the Ronald McDonald House, provides families a place to relax, grab coffee and a snack, and get a break from the world upstairs. At that point I thought about another friend of mine from college, someone who was a couple years younger than me, and who now has a nearly one-year-old son who is battling brain cancer. I can only imagine that that space will be such a haven for her if her baby boy needs a hospital stay.
We wandered up to the NICU and stood just outside learning about why this NICU is so special, from the private rooms and windows in each room, to the extra care to keep the rooms quiet and peaceful for the babies. I thought back to Jacob's stay in the special care nursery and what a trying week that was. That was in an affiliated hospital to the one I was in today, and I suppose we were fortunate that we got to stay where we were and didn't have to transfer to the NICU at GCH.
We then headed up to one of the patient floors and got to see the playdeck, a wonderful indoor space full of ride-on toys and fun spaces to play. At that point I thought about my former co-worker, whose son spent more than four months in the hospital battling leukemia. He was younger than Carter is now when he was diagnosed, and he's now a happy, healthy four-year-old. He was one of the wonderful success stories, but it didn't come without a grueling stay at the hospital. She was pregnant at the time, and trying to corral an energetic (even when sick) two-year-old was exhausting. I remember her posting countless pictures of her little boy playing in the old hospital's playroom, and even getting a couple stints on the outdoor patio (which the new building doesn't have...yet!). I thought about how much she would have loved a space like this with its gorgeous views and fun décor.
We also got to see the teen lounge and a parent lounge, as well as a school room where long-term patients can get tutoring. We heard the inspiring story of the family that furnished that school room. We caught a glimpse of a couple sick kids, and it was a sobering reminder of why the new hospital is so important. We walked through another peaceful outside garden, and that marked the end of our tour. And when it was over, the consensus among the moms in the group was that we needed a good cry!
Pinpointing the emotions was a little difficult. After all, we just saw a beautiful, inspiring hospital that doesn't feel like a hospital. On one hand we were so thankful to have this amazing hospital in our own hometown. God forbid we ever need to use it, but it's good to know that such an awesome facility is there. On the other hand, we were keenly aware of how blessed we are to have healthy children. The NICU is full, and there were numerous patients on the floors. And we're so lucky to not be among them. And on a personal level, I was nearly in tears for most of the tour because every space made me think of my friends who would have loved having amenities like that during their extended stays, or may use them in the future. Having a connection to know how important a hospital like this can be to families who need it really made the tour that much more personal to me. It was almost overwhelming.
I was so impressed by everything I saw, from the beautiful design to the small touches. There was the giant Lite-Brite feature in the 8th floor lobby and the wall-mounted motion dioramas in the hallways. Some of the common spaces housed smaller alcoves to help kids who would be overstimulated in the larger spaces. The low furniture and playful décor were just perfect. And the many touches to make the space comfortable for families, from the lounges to spaces to sleep in the patient rooms, were so comforting to see. The facilities and services offered by the hospital are top-notch, including the only PET-MRI machine in a children's hospital in the whole country...and it's themed like a pirate ship! From top to bottom, it was so impressive.
I never imagined that the tour would be as emotional as it was. It's funny what parenthood does to you. And while I'm so happy that facility is there, I truly hope we never need to use it. But if we do, I take great comfort in knowing it's going to be the best possible place for our kids to heal.