Recently my youngest granddaughter had surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. It was my first experience with a children's hospital, and it was an eye-opener. The staff and facility could not be more welcoming and child friendly.
The nurses wear brightly colored T-shirts to appear less threatening. The rooms have chairs which can be made into beds for parents, and mothers are allowed to sleep in the hospital beds with their children, even in pediatric intensive care.
A counselor is available to explain to the children the intricacies of surgery and answer any questions the children may have. Parents are told to bring a blanket or favorite stuffed animal to the hospital and the children carry that with them into the operating room.
Every room has a television permanently tuned to the Disney Channel. The rooms are colorfully decorated with primary colors and letters of the alphabet. Throughout the hospital, in rooms and halls, hang framed art work by children who were patients at the hospital. Even the elevators are named (Flower was the one we used), not numbered or lettered.
When my granddaughter was moved to a room, she could visit a craft room just two doors down from her room. It had chairs and tables suitable for children and was well stocked with coloring books and crayons, puzzles, games and even a swing for babies. In the wall was an aquarium filled with colorful fish. Across the hall from the craft room was a small out-door playground equipped with a slide and swing.
An area called The Zone is accessed through the basement and has a small basketball court and a koi pond. Throughout the time my granddaughter was there, announcements were made for shows and movies held in The Zone to which all patients and their families were invited. She enjoyed a show with dogs and clowns. Parents may take their children to the shows in large comfortable wagons that are provided for patients who need help walking. Children could also visit the cafeteria which featured children-friendly food like pizza and Chick-fil-A. It also offered a variety of cookies and ice cream. The lobby had a TV-screen like mural that covered a whole wall and featured scenes under the ocean.
When my granddaughter was ready to go home, the nurses gave her and her sister gifts of crayons and coloring books.
While going to the hospital is frightening for children and adults, the staff at Scottish Rite make every effort to ease the fears of their patients. The experience, from that point of view, was wonderful.
Equally wonderful were the people of Covington and particularly the teachers of Flint Hill Elementary School who offered so much support. A nurse who works at Scottish Rite went to the hospital on her day off to make sure my daughter and granddaughter understood the process and to answer any questions. My granddaughter's teacher and several other teachers visited her in the hospital on a Friday afternoon, the Friday before spring break. Scottish Rite is on I-285 one exit past Perimeter Mall. Traffic on I-285 on Friday afternoon is daunting without counting spring break. I'd say making that trek at that time was a special gift. The teachers brought her cards and banners from her classmates. My granddaughter was excited and felt special to see her teachers and hear from her classmates.
The teachers made sure that my daughter and her family had a hot meal each day of spring break -their week off. One teacher took my other granddaughter home with her two days and had her spend one night with her family, freeing me to visit the hospital.
Even the people who work with me at The News brought me a present. It was a frightening time, but all the people who took the time to care about my family made it, in some ways, a positive experience.
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.