When 3-year-old Vinny and his mom Nikki visited CHOC Children’s for the first time, they didn’t expect a calming experience thanks to a magic show, or that staff would go above and beyond to make them feel comfortable.
Vinny had a fever, and his pediatrician suspected pneumonia. After a few days of antibiotics, the fever returned, prompting his trip to the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital.
“His pediatrician had told us that if Vinny didn’t seem to get better, we should rush him to CHOC,” Nikki says.
Nikki called the emergency department before bringing Vinny in, to check on COVID-19 visitor requirements. His fever was nearly 104 degrees when they left the house for their first-ever visit to CHOC.
Nikki and Vinny remember feeling nervous, stressed and scared when they arrived, but appreciated how CHOC staff reassured the two from the very beginning.
“Everyone had a very palpable sense of confidence that they will take care of the children, while also being super soothing and calming in their attitude and demeanor,” Nikki says.
In the emergency department, Vinny was given a COVID-19 test. He’d had one before but had a much smoother experience this time.
“Vinny has had a test done elsewhere prior to being at CHOC and that experience was traumatic for him,” Nikki says. “The test done at CHOC was faster and went smoothly thanks to the child life specialists who helped distract him.”
Vinny’s vitals and stats were checked, and he was prepared for a chest X-ray. The X-rays showed that he not only had pneumonia, but also pleural effusion, a buildup of excess fluid in the lungs.
Dr. Seth Brindis, a board-certified pediatric emergency medicine specialist is an expert in taking care of sick kids. But before he discussed the X-rays results with Nikki, he put Vinny at ease with something else he excels in — magic tricks. He greeted Vinny by pulling a coin from behind the 3-year-old’s ear. That trick was followed by a series of magic tricks that brightened Vinny’s evening, and eventually, his entire experience at CHOC.
Aside from magic tricks, Dr. Brindis also had a treatment plan up his sleeve. He sent Vinny home with a prescription for stronger antibiotics and an inhaler. He also explained to Nikki what should and should not happen with Vinny while he healed at home.
“From early on, CHOC always had a future plan, and communicated that to us,” Nikki says. “I was always able to ask whatever questions, and they had answers.”
Nikki and Vinny went home, but four days later his fever returned, and he was unable to breathe, so they returned to CHOC’s emergency department.
This time, doctors determined that Vinny needed to be admitted to CHOC Children’s Hospital for further evaluation and treatment. As part of this process, he was tested a third time for COVID, an experience that again went smoothly, thanks to the child life specialists of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department.
Vinny stayed at CHOC for a week for stronger antibiotics, monitoring and supplemental oxygen. Throughout his stay, he was under the care of a multidisciplinary team of pediatric experts. This included Dr. Antonio Arrieta, medical director of infectious diseases, who was determined to help Vinny feel better. This level of care helped Vinny’s mom feel better, too.
“Dr. Arrieta was truly one of the most intelligent human beings I’ve ever had a conversation with, and we felt extremely comfortable in his care and that of his whole team,” Nikki says.
Being in a hospital for the first time was not easy for Vinny. He’s a naturally active child, but due to his compromised lungs and playrooms being temporarily closed due to the pandemic, he was unable to play in areas outside of his room. Luckily, Child Life had just the thing for him. A specialist showed up to his room with a box full of plastic bowling pins and a ball. Vinny was thrilled, and so was his mom.
“Every single nurse, respiratory therapist, child life specialist and doctor we met was just amazing,” Nikki says. “The only thing you truly want in a situation like this as a parent is for your child to be healing and comfortable, and they all worked to make that happen daily.”
Vinny’s treatment plan was successful. After his fever subsided and his symptoms improved greatly, he was able to go back home.
“Bringing my child to the hospital for the first time was scary at first, especially during a pandemic,” Nikki says. “I will always remember the kindness and world-class expertise that helped my son feel better and get back to being a kid. Vinny will never forget how a doctor turned into a magician right before his eyes.”
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