Friday, December 25, 2009

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

The Room: The room in the PICU was... well, a PICU room. The bed and the surrounding equipment is a bit cramped, because there are a lot of monitors that have to be plugged in. Nobody expects that the PICU is comfortable. The room up in the hemo / onc ward was quite a departure from the room in St. Barnabas. The room is much larger than we're used to, about half again as large as the other hospital. There is a couch in the room, as well as one padded chair. There isn't really a chair to attach The Boy's booster seat, which could be a problem eventually. For now, he ate sitting in bed, with the table pulled in front of him, or he ate sitting in the booster chair on the floor.

The floor and the door are wooden, which is a more friendly touch than the institutional linoleum we're used to seeing. All of the rooms have bathrooms with a spacious shower, which is REALLY nice! There isn't a refrigerator in the room, though, which is a negative. The parent lounge - which has a kitchen table, microwave, large refrigerator, and a coffee machine with lots of coffee that parents or nurses make - is suitable for those needs. All-in-all, I like the rooms much better, here.

The Food: At St. Barnabas, every patient received a customized menu (if they were pediatric, or nephrogenic, or cardiac, or whatever) that was filled out in the morning, for dinner and the next day's breakfast and lunch. The meals were brought at whatever times they arrived. Each room has a small refrigerator, and each floor has a large refrigerator / freezer that was kept stocked with juices, jellos, and pudding. At ChoPitt, the patients call food services and have the food or snack delivered up to the room in 45 minutes or under. They have a wider variety of meals, and the meals are much more customizable. Snacks are available from the food services with a telephone call. The nurses can bring some juice, jello, or popsicles when requested, particularly during the off hours, when food services is closed.

The down part? If you're like me, and sleep as long as The Boy sleeps, then you have a grumpy and hungry toddler for 45 minutes while they're delivering "egg cheese bagel!!!! Egg cheese bagel!!!" It just means that some planning and anticipation is required.

An interesting thing at CHoPitt: when you're done with the tray, you don't take it anywhere outside of the room. You put it in a cabinet; the cabinet has a second door, outside the room, where food services folks can retrieve the dirty trays. They have a similar system for dirty linens.

Which do I like better? I don't know. They both have plusses and minuses. I like the customization of Pitts, but the 45 minute delivery time is a bit of a pain sometimes. The advantage goes to Pitt, mostly because they provide coffee for free for parents. At Barnabas, I had to have the right food services person deliver the food in order to get comp coffee.

The cafeteria in CHoPitt is more extensive than Barnabas, but only by a little bit. They have "Seattle's Best" coffee instead of Starbucks, which is a plus. On the down side, Barnabas has much better desserts. You can buy a food delivery from food services for $5, to be delivered with your kids' tray, but you have to go down to the cafeteria to buy it.

The nurses: Just like at Barnabas, it's a mixed bag. Most of the nurses are really sweet people; if you work in pediatrics, then you have to enjoy what you're doing. There are great nurses, okay nurses, and nurses that we want to avoid. The nurse we had on Tuesday night is one in which I'm not a fan: the every-8-minute-interruption from 1AM to 4AM is a real problem, particularly when we were NOT dealing with the serious part of The Boy's treatments. Barnabas has the advantage, mostly because they had Sharon in the Valerie Fund and Tisch upstairs. We just haven't found the Sharon and Tisch at CHoPitt yet.

Parking and Entry: At Barnabas, we knew how to get free parking in the lots. Also, I knew all the security guys, so I never stopped at the registration desk. Free parking plus quick entry is a real plus. At CHoPitt, people have to stop at the front desk and wait to get a name badge printed out by the folks behind the desk. I've waited 15 minutes there for entry, which is frustrating. Let's just say that they aren't in a rush there. Parking is $5 a day, or free if you go in the outpatient clinic. I suppose that, once we know everybody, we'll be able to get free parking on weekdays by getting outpatient to stamp our tickets, but we're not there yet. Barnabas has a clear advantage there.

Other Stuff: Younger Bro is welcomed on the floor, not prohibited like at Barnabas. That's a BIG plus. They understand that the hem/onc siblings are safer WITH them than stuck in someone else's care, and we appreciate that immensely. Obviously, the baby doesn't go into the PICU, but that's just common sense. In addition, The Boy was encouraged to go for walks around the floor when he was healthy enough to move. At Barnabas, he was encouraged to stay in his room. It's nice to let him walk around, or carry him around. They also have playrooms for the hem/onc kids that are separate from the normal playrooms, and a playroom for isolation kids. That's a BIG deal, particularly if they wind up ramping up The Boy's treatments post-surgery.

I had a lot of fun pulling The Boy around in a big, red wagon on Thursday. He really enjoyed that, and he also spent about 90 minutes in the playroom wrecking lots of stuff. Those are both good things.

In addition, we spoke with physical therapists, respiratory therapists while we were inpatient. He got respiratory therapy every 4 hours - albuterol through a nebulizer - and chest therapy, which was basically pounding on his back to help loosen stuff up. That was nice to see. We also were loaned a nebulizer, and the hospital pharmacy refilled all of our prescriptions for him on our way out.

The Doctors: I liked the PICU doctors very much. The lead attending was a real no-nonsense kind of person; when she spoke, she spoke with authority and conviction, and her underlings jumped when she told them to jump. The attending under her looked like Joss Whedon, which was kind of cool.

The hem/onc floor attendings and residents were the normal mixed bag. I scared away a couple of first year residents ("Go get Mommy or Daddy, please, so I can get some answers."), and the second and further year residents quickly learned to mind their P's and Q's when I was around. One of the 4th year residents took a real interest in The Boy's case, and checked in quite frequently on him. The lead attending on the floor reminded me very much of the guidance counselor from my first job: a crusty old dude who has no issues telling it like it is.

I didn't get to meet any of the attendings on The Boy's oncology team, nor did I meet any of the attendings on The Boy's surgical team, so I can't pass judgement. It is cool that his lead oncologist is a fellow iPhone addict and responds to emails, usually, within minutes. I don't know if he'll be as cool as Dr. Rifkin, who is a certified sci-fi nerd, but the iPhone helps.

Apparently, the hem/onc ward frequently gets visited by local sports folks. I think it'd awesome to meet some of the baseball players in town... 8)

Big negative: no local Chai Lifeline office. 8(

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