As a member of the PR and marketing department at the hospital for 16 years, Andrea Joliet has worked with families and written about their experiences at Akron Children’s, but she certainly never expected to be one of those families.
During the spring of 2009, Andrea’s daughter, Aly, a sophomore in high school, became sick and experienced severe stomach pain. But a visit to her primary care doctor and subsequent ER visits found nothing out of the ordinary.
Still feeling ill, she bravely went to school and then to prom, so as not to disappoint her date and her friends by sitting out.
On the Monday after prom, Aly passed out at school. Andrea picked her up and headed straight to the ER at Akron Children’s.
By then, Aly was literally turning green. She was spontaneously bleeding from her toes, and they soon found out her platelets had plummeted.
Doctors determined that Aly was suffering from acute kidney failure as a result of hemolytic uremic syndrome, a life-threatening bacterial infection.
“The doctors were so committed and just awesome, involving us in every step and every decision. They were very calming and very open about what was going on,” said Andrea, director of corporate communications at Akron Children’s.
Aly’s treatment included multiple blood transfusions and plasma treatments – made more difficult because of her rare blood type – and several dialysis treatments.
An allergic reaction to plasma during the middle of one night was a frightening, temporary setback, handled calmly and competently by Aly’s care team.
Andrea was grateful to be close by in the Reinberger Family Center while Aly’s father stayed in her room on that particular night.
“The center is so accommodating,” Andrea said. “It’s yet another facility we’re fortunate to have right here at our hospital.”
Aly spent one week in the Pediatric ICU, then another full week on a regular patient floor. Once her daughter was feeling better, Andrea was able to breathe easily and even set up her laptop in Aly’s hospital room to get some work accomplished.
“Everyone at work was so supportive. From Mr. Considine (hospital CEO and president) down, this is a family-centered workplace,” Andrea said. “In our business, we talk a lot about patient-centered care, but believe me, we lived it. In addition to all the specialists and therapists who were treating Aly in the PICU, we had the support of a child life specialist and psychologist.”
Today, Aly is a healthy 19-year-old college student and Andrea is a grateful parent and employee.
“We are really lucky to have such an excellent hospital here in northeast Ohio,” Andrea said. “People are always amazed when they come here and experience the exceptional care we provide. Philanthropy plays an important role. It’s why we’re able to offer such great care and make miracles happen every day.”
Akron Children’s Hospital is launching the “My Promise. My Children’s.” employee campaign to raise money in support of the hospital’s $200 million “Building on the Promise” campus expansion project. As part of the campaign, several employees have stepped forward to share their own experiences at Akron Children’s as a parent and a colleague.