Today, we salute our outstanding physicians, nurses, associates and volunteers at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital for providing 25 years of compassionate, world-class care to South Orange County families.
Since its opening on July 15, 1993, CHOC Mission has nurtured, advanced and protected the health and well-being of children through its state-of-the-art facility and top-rated programs and services. As the only dedicated pediatric health care facility for families in south Orange County, the surrounding coastal areas and north San Diego County, CHOC Mission is a separately licensed 54-bed “hospital within a hospital” on the fifth floor of Mission Hospital.
When 5-year-old Taylor Ho landed face down rollerblading, she and her mom Jennifer found themselves at CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital. Several of Taylor’s front teeth were pushed under her gums, which were split open, as was her lip. The little daredevil was facing her first surgery. Jennifer, on the other hand, had plenty of experience in the hospital. In fact, she is a pediatric hospitalist at CHOC Children’s, working at the healthcare system’s two hospitals.
That day, as her daughter was in pre-op awaiting oral surgery with Dr. Stephen Vaughan, Jennifer was experiencing the hospital from a different perspective: that of a mother.
“It was an odd, out-of-body experience for me. I was not the one in control. It was unnerving having to place my faith in others, even though I knew Taylor was in the best hands,” recalls Jennifer.
Jennifer’s anxiety began to diminish after witnessing her daughter’s interaction with Felice Olguin, the child life specialist.
“Felice explained everything that was going to happen in a way Taylor could understand. She kept her calm and distracted; Taylor didn’t even feel the IV going in,” she explains.
In addition to tending to their young patient’s medical needs, the pre-op staff worked to normalize the experience by bringing in elements of play; in Taylor’s case, stuffed animals and a fun blanket. The team also let her bring her beloved “pink bunny,” a favorite of hers since she was a baby, into the operating room.
Taylor was in surgery for an hour. Several of her baby teeth were removed. Her gums and lip were repaired. She’s healing great, says Jennifer.
Jennifer is grateful for the care her daughter received, and appreciative of how the experience enhanced her ability to empathize with her own patients’ parents.
Just days after her accident landed her in the emergency department, Taylor was back on her beloved roller blades with a smile on her face.
“At CHOC, we pride ourselves on patient-and-family-centered care. Now, however, I bring a different perspective to discussions I have with parents, especially when it comes to what to expect. And, no matter how minor an injury or illness may be, medically speaking, it’s a big deal to a parent,” shares Jennifer.
Snuggling a newborn is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but did you know the practice also has lasting health and emotional benefits for parents and infants?
Giving a sick or preterm baby skin-to-skin contact – usually against a parent’s chest – is called “kangaroo care,” a cute name for a vitally important practice.
To raise awareness of the method, CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital recently held a week-long “Kangaroo-a-thon,” during which parents were encouraged to snuggle their babies as much as possible. The event was held in collaboration with Mission Hospital and March of Dimes, and recognized November as Prematurity Awareness Month.
Studies have shown that kangaroo care can help maintain an infant’s body temperature, contribute to higher blood oxygen levels, and improve sleep, breast-feeding and weight gain, says Liz Drake, a clinical nurse specialist at CHOC at Mission.
Further, parents develop stronger bonds with their new babies and gain parenting confidence, and mothers often show improved milk production, she added.
During the Kangaroo-a-thon, parents in both hospitals spent 4,550 minutes — about 76 hours — cuddling with their infants, Liz says.
The method has been adopted worldwide, and, of course, at all three CHOC Children’s neonatal intensive care units. CHOC experts promote skin-to-skin contact with even the most fragile little patients, including babies with extremely low birth weights and those on ventilators.
Technology and medicine have brought many advances in neonatology, but the touch of a parent remains a key tool in the care of sick and preterm babies. Kangaroo care is one more technique contributing to a supportive environment that helps premature babies mature and develop as they would in their mother’s womb.
Newborn babies who need intensive medical attention are often admitted into a special area of the hospital called the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Most babies admitted into the NICU are premature (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy), have low birthweight (less than 5.5 pounds), or have a medical condition that requires special care. Dr. Vijay Dhar, medical director of the CHOC Children’s NICU,understands the fear and anxiety experienced by parents of NICU patients. As a veteran neonatologist, Dr. Dhar advises parents to ask their care team the following questions to help alleviate some of that anxiety:
• What is the anticipated length of stay for my baby? A NICU baby might stay in the unit for one night up to six months or longer, depending on the baby’s condition.
• What is my baby’s prognosis? Your baby’s neonatologist can provide you with information based on historical outcomes of babies with the same conditions, complications or illnesses.
• What can I expect in the short and long term? Along with asking about your baby’s prognosis, inquire about what you can expect. Never hesitate to speak with your child’s multidisciplinary team, and they’ll provide you with an assessment based on your child’s condition and current health status.
• What can you tell me about your NICU? CHOC’s NICU is an award-winning unit with a team specialized in caring for the most fragile and tiniest of babies. Our NICU offers state-of-the-art care and life-saving technologies around-the-clock. Our patients come from all over the region for our critical tertiary and quaternary care (Level 3C care) and excellent outcomes. Most babies will stay in the west wing of the unit. Babies born at 27 weeks gestation or earlier or weigh less than 1,000 grams will go to the east wing, which is known as the Small Baby Unit.
• What type of support services do you offer in the NICU and in the hospital for parents? CHOC recognizes the impact of a child’s illness on a family. We use a family-centered approach – a belief that a family’s involvement in the healthcare of a child is important. Our psychologists and social workers provide supportive counseling to assist families in coping with the unpredictability of a potentially life-threatening condition. They also link families with community resources for emotional, as well as financial, support.
• How can I bond with my baby? Finding out your baby will have to spend time in the NICU is never easy. We believe bonding time with your baby provides many health benefits for your child and you. Our NICU experts promote contact with even the most fragile and smallest patients, including extremely low birth weight babies and those on ventilators. Babies have very positive responses to their parents’ closeness—whether it is a gentle caress with a fingertip or skin-to-skin cuddling. We have developed the Parenting in the NICU Guide with advice, information and support most helpful for NICU moms, dads and extended family. The guides are available through your baby’s NICU care team.
• Can I stay somewhere near my baby? CHOC has a partnership with the Ronald McDonald House, a cozy, 20 bedroom place located a few short blocks from the hospital. A social worker can provide you with more information on accommodations and help you with additional resources.
• Can my baby be transferred back to my referring hospital after he is in stable condition? Approximately 50 percent of our NICU patients are transported from hospitals across the region for lifesaving treatment – as close as Los Angeles County and Inland Empire, and as far as Hawaii. Speak to your care team about what will happen once your baby is in stable condition.
• Is there a way for me to obtain insight from my baby’s care team all at once? CHOC strongly encourages parents to be present during “rounds,” a time during the morning hours when the entire care team (nurses, doctors and additional specialty clinicians) check in with patients to review their health status and progress. Each patient case is evaluated and discussed during this time.
• What precautions can I take to avoid infections? CHOC is strict and vigilant with our infection control policies and practices. Parents and visitors are expected to follow these guidelines to protect our NICU patients. Everyone must their wash their hands with alcohol gel. If you have had recent contact or exposure to a communicable disease, or recent contact with an ill person, you must receive approval from the Infection Control Practitioner to come into the unit. Any visitor who is currently ill is not permitted to visit.