For those who work at Akron Children’s, most will tell you there’s something special about working at the independent pediatric hospital. They can’t quite put their finger on what ‘it’ is, but perhaps ‘it’ comes from the satisfaction of knowing everyone – from parking attendants to surgeons – plays an active role in supporting patients. On any given day, employees serve families in big and sometimes small, heart-felt ways that make us all better for the experience.
A perfect example of ‘it’ came last month when 4-year-old patient Madhu Smith went to the cafeteria for a cupcake after her appointment.
“I usually stop at the gift shop to let her pick out a little trinket but, after her last visit, she changed her mind. She wanted a cupcake,” said Melissa Smith, Madhu’s mom. “We made our way to Kids Café only to find a sign on the door that said the card reader was down, cash only. I had no cash on me. As we turned to leave, Vicki Webb (a senior performance improvement coordinator at Akron Children’s), who overheard me tell Madhu I didn’t have cash, offered to buy her one…Vicki’s attentiveness and kindness are reflective of our overall experience at Akron Children’s.”
Madhu’s brush with special staff members has become something of a norm for the cleft patient since she first came to the hospital in the summer of 2017.
Madhu was adopted from India where she was initially treated for her cleft lip and palate. Once she came home to Ohio, her mom knew Madhu needed a cleft team. After researching and seeking advice from the cleft community on social media, Dr. Murthy’s name repeatedly came up so she scheduled an appointment with Dr. Ananth Murthy, director of pediatric plastic and reconstructive surgery and medical director for the Craniofacial Center and Speech Surgery Clinic at Akron Children’s.
“Dr. Murthy was wonderful…I knew we were at the right place. A few weeks later, Madhu had her first cleft clinic which is an appointment coordinated to include several care providers in one place, on the same day,” said Smith. “It was great because we didn’t have to bounce around and make multiple appointments.”
In one appointment, Madhu met with plastic surgery, otolaryngology, genetics, social work, orthodontics, dentistry, audiology and speech.
“After the appointment, the cleft team put together a personalized treatment plan in writing, sort of a next steps, so I had an idea what to expect and do for Madhu,” said Melissa. “What I like most is that everyone, no matter the department, engages with Madhu. They make an effort to talk directly to her, not to her through me.”
Like many patients, Madhu’s care has required several visits to various parts of the hospital. She’s been in outpatient surgery for ear tubes and inpatient surgery for a nose and lip revision where she has received care from trusted surgeons, specialists and countless nurses – daytime, nighttime, practitioners and anesthetists. She’s enjoyed trips to the gift shop, been greeted by volunteers and witnessed the amazement of comic book superheroes who visit the hospital.
“When you’re at Children’s, you can’t help but notice it’s all about kids – from the bright colored hallways to the ball machine,” said Smith. “I feel Madhu is getting exemplary care with a back drop that allows her to escape from being a patient.”
Lately, trips to the hospital have been a bit challenging due to road construction and closures. But, once again, Madhu’s family has been touched by kindness from others.
“It was the day of Madhu’s surgery and I was running behind… the valet parking attendant went out of her way to try to help me even as the cars lined up behind me,” said Melissa. “It’s little things like this that make you realize this hospital has something special. They all care – from start to finish and everyone in between.”
While Madhu passed on the gift shop after her last visit, she has an appointment with Dr. Richard Hertle, a pediatric ophthalmologist and director of the Vision Center, in the coming months that will most likely lead her back to her favorite stop. Unless, of course, she feels like a cupcake that day. If the chefs are taking requests, she’d like one with her favorite topping, Nutella, please.