We have been in and out of a many hospitals in the five years since Oliver‘s birth and each of them has had attributes that I have very much appreciated. But I have to say, our new medical home, Seattle Children’s, has it all.
Friendly staff greet you when you call to schedule appointments. They don’t seem rushed and they take extra time to answer any questions. There are Coordinated Schedulers, which you’re given access to after your child amasses a certain number of sub specialists, who help line up same day appointments… a gift from the heavens when you live 3 hours from the hospital. It’s a beautiful trip down along the Puget Sound with breathtaking scenery to occupy the eyes.
Upon arrival, parking is easy with straightforward signage and, miracles never cease! It is even FREE! Check-in is quick and smooth and navigating the hospital wings is made easy by a sweet system of color-coded habitats.
Friendly woodland creatures and bright murals cover the walls throughout the buildings.
The long corridors have big picture windows, allowing in muted light from the ever-cloudy skies. I especially love those cloudy skies because they make me feel like I’m not missing anything when we’re in the hospital. It feels like we’re in a cozy cave, warm and safe and that the world beyond these walls is resting too.
Life feels easy here. Relatively speaking, of course. The family bathrooms are equipped with full-size adult changing tables so you don’t have to cram your ever-growing child onto a baby one and the doors open and close themselves without smashing your wheelchair as it rolls in and out.
The Family Resource Center has complementary hot coffee all day long and back up necessities that you forgot or didn’t have time to grab before racing your child to the hospital. A toothbrush for your furry teeth, unclean because you haven’t had a chance with the all-night ER visit. Some soap to wash away the stress sweat that’s making you smell more like a farm animal than a parent. And the lotion you wish you had to rub on your hands, which are raw from sanitizing so much. There are computers to connect with the outside world and they’ll even let you print out the 20 page IEP you forgot to bring to your specialist appointment. You can even book a massage, do your laundry and of course, they’re always there to lend an ear or have a chat about other resources.
The inpatient rooms have parent couches that… wait for it… PULL ALL THE WAY OUT!!! And are actually big enough for an adult to sleep on. This is a game changer for a mama who’s attempted to sleep balled up on a tiny chair and ottoman too many nights in a row. And each room even has a shower!! Ohhhhh how awesome that hot water feels after being awake all night long.
In alignment with the crunchiness of the Pacific Northwest the cafeteria uses organic cage free eggs in their dishes. They also have bomb gluten-free brownies for a few extra calories when the stress makes your stomach too sour for anything else.
The chapel isn’t just a chapel. It’s also a meditation room. There was even a small gift basket with hand knitted prayers scarves inside. It’s a quiet, peaceful place with sacred art from faith traditions around the world. And there are rocking chairs…. One might be tempted to stay there all day.
Fish tanks throughout the building hold majestic angel fish and other brightly colored cousins which I can’t seem to remember the name of. They create the feeling of a day at the aquarium rather than a hospital.
Stepping outside the fresh crisp northwest air fills the lungs and the multitude of trees surrounding the building reassure you that you’re still enveloped by nature, even when this life feels so detached from the natural world.
There are benches on which to contemplate life, amidst colorful plants.
And the stroll through the sculpture garden gives a tired mind respite from its hamster wheel.
I’m sure some people would judge the fancy artwork or full-size sleeping couches or complementary toiletries as unnecessary, perhaps even a waste of donor’s money, since what really matters most is the best medical care for the child. But I can’t tell you how much ambience and small reminders of happier times and hope, help support a parent who spends a lot of time in a hospital environment, often in a less than ideal mental or emotional space. These little extra efforts show that the hospital understands the realities of a medically complex life. A forgotten toothbrush. The sparse moments of sleep in between alarms. The aching back of a parent who hasn’t rested their body in too long. Each kind consideration, making a parent feel more cared for, makes all the difference in the world. Because honestly, when the parent is more supported, the child is more supported too.
And last, but definitely not least, is the incredible staff… The staff is just top notch. From the security people, to the barista‘s at Starbucks, to the medical assistants, to the doctors and nurses, I have never met a more enthusiastic, friendly group of people who all seem to share the exceedingly rare gift of excellent bedside manner. I have felt listened to, respected and supported throughout our visits here. This is the team I have been trying, without success, to build for the last five years. A cohesive family of medical professionals, ready and willing to communicate and work together to fully support a child like Oliver, one with complex medical needs that span all areas of health.
I feel terribly lucky to have found a home here at Seattle Children’s. In the end, all of my worry and my sleepless nights and the anxiety over building his medical network up here, apparently, was unnecessary. Things have come together perfectly, just like they always seem to do, when I have enough patience to slow down and allow things to simply unfold.