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Parents, kids create wish list for their ‘dream’ hospital

In a free-wheeling exchange of ideas, the parents who participated in a focus group to help design Akron Children’s Hospital’s new critical care tower clearly love much about the current facility. They hope to see Akron Children’s culture preserved as it grows bigger.

Parents used phrases like, “comfortable,” “bright,” “warm,” “clean” when asked, “What should be the first impression of Akron Children’s?”

Sarah Sanford said she hopes the new hospital tower will remain a place where “everyone you meet with knows your child.”

Megs Pollock and Jackie Smolinski agreed with that sentiment, adding that they didn’t want the new building to be “too sterile,” or to “look like an airport terminal.” In other words, even if it is big, make it feel small.

Parents attending the session included mothers who had newborns in Akron Children’s NICU as well as those who come to the hospital often with children who have complex healthcare needs.

While the parents talked about what they wanted in the new building, a group of kids were in a nearby room drawing pictures of their “dream” hospital and sharing their own opinions.

While Michelle Ott talked about the importance of having automatic, wheelchair-accessible doors that her daughters could open themselves, 13-year-old Jenna Ott drew a picture of a hospital room with a canopy bed, a “gummy bear” bean bag chair, and lots of pink and purple.

Jenna’s design was conservative compared to other kids who envisioned robots, roller coasters, an ice rink and a beach incorporated into the new hospital.

“I love that kids were invited to this event and that they have a say,” said Michelle.

Jenna has had 20 surgeries so far in her young life and older sister, Alix, who also attended, has undergone more than 50 surgeries. The Ott girls were excited to think that they may actually see some of their ideas in place when the hospital tower opens in 2015.

The parents were also asked what they appreciated about the existing facilities, what they would like to change, and the best way to create a healing environment.

Parents associated healing with kind-hearted, friendly people, serene colors, natural light, music and water.

MaryBeth Fry said NICU moms would get hope from seeing pictures of preemies juxtaposed with pictures of the same children doing well in middle school, high school or college.

Even if the NICU gets bigger – with individual rooms – Fry and the other moms want the new space to balance their need for privacy while giving them the opportunity to meet, develop a support group and maybe even become lifelong friends.

“Research shows that when you reduce stress for parents, you reduce stress for the child,” HKS architect, Rachel Saucier, told the group.