Recruiting the best medical minds
Donor support enhances our ability to recruit the best medical specialists to take care of our young patients and advance the field of pediatric medicine. Nationally recognized subspecialist John Costello, MD, MPH, joined Children’s Memorial in July 2010 to head the 36-bed Regenstein Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), which will occupy the entire 15th floor in Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. This specialty unit will allow cardiac patients to remain with the same treatment team and on the same floor from admission to discharge, and will be one of the few pediatric units of its kind in the nation.
Helping families find hope in tough times
Our social work team sometimes identifies families with severe financial needs that may hinder their ability to care for their sick child. Nearly 1,200 such families received emergency financial assistance during the past year from the Patient Emergency Fund, which is fully funded by philanthropy. For example, young Max spent nine months in the hospital trying to regain his strength after a very difficult treatment for an aggressive tumor. His single mother was unemployed, and her job search was delayed when Max was diagnosed. While worrying about her son, she was struggling to maintain normalcy for her younger daughter who was being cared for by family members. The social worker referred Max’s mother to Ronald McDonald House so she could stay closer to the hospital and provided the family with bus passes to travel back and forth to home and to bring Max’s sister to the hospital for visits. The social worker also gave much-needed psychosocial support to the family during this trying time.
Advancing the next generation of caregivers
Our ability to train the next generation of pediatric sub-specialists and recruit the best and brightest to our faculty is enhanced every day through donor support. After completing his pediatric residency and a fellowship in oncology at Children’s, Rishi Lulla, MD completed a fourth year fellowship in neuro-oncology and has been recruited to a faculty position in the Falk Brain Tumor Center. In addition to caring for patients with brain tumors, he is continuing his ongoing research into the genetics of a type of brain tumor called ependymomas. Working under the mentorship of Dr. Stewart Goldman, he is examining the feasibility of using miRNAs—small RNA molecules encoded in the genomes that regulate the expression of genes—in the blood as an early predictor of cancer as well as a marker of response to therapy. Additionally, Dr. Lulla is collaborating with specialists from anesthesiology and otolaryngology to study the benefits of using acupuncture to relieve fatigue in patients undergoing cancer treatment. This unique study may lead to improvement in the quality of life for our patients. We are pleased to have this talented young physician on faculty at Children’s and offering our patients the most innovative and compassionate care.
Ground-breaking research in tissue regeneration
Vital philanthropic funding has made it possible for our physicians and scientists to conduct novel research studies. Thanks to donor support, physician-scientist Earl Cheng, MD is exploring bladder tissue regeneration for children with abnormal bladders such as patients with spina bifida. The lab’s greatest hope is to regenerate this tissue using a child’s own bone marrow stem cells and provide a bladder that functions normally. Research like Dr. Cheng’s takes years of persistent work, and requires great investment—but the pay off for children in generations to come could be very significant. Though the clinical application of this research is likely years away, families facing urologic disorders have reason to be hopeful for the future.
Growing and healing through art
Art therapy is part of the holistic approach to care that makes Children’s Memorial unique. This type of therapy helps children cope with the challenges of lengthy hospitalizations and invasive procedures in a fun, creative and non-threatening way. The art therapists encourage children to express their feelings through the creative process to release tension and aggression, build self-esteem and promote personal interactions. In addition, their creations help the medical staff understand how patients are coping and what additional support is needed. A young stem cell transplant patient, Kelsey, had difficulty communicating verbally, but found art making to be a helpful expressive outlet. During one session, the art therapist brought Kelsey a journal to personalize that she could use as a communication tool and a place to write her thoughts and feelings. When a nurse arrived to change the tape and gauze on her IVs, Kelsey requested that the art therapist remain with her and support her during the procedure. Kelsey wrote in her journal that she wanted to remove the tape herself and that she wanted the nurse to count to three before using the cleansing solution that stung her sensitive skin. Before the nurse reapplied the tape and gauze, Kelsey grabbed her journal and drew a picture of her IV on her arm and an image of how she wanted the new tape and protective covering placed on her skin. Through her drawings, this young patient was able to communicate her wishes. With further support of the art therapist, she developed coping techniques that ultimately decreased some of the frustrated feelings she had experienced during her stem cell transplant.
Giving HIV infected teens the tools to thrive
Through donor funding we have been able to add an Adolescent Outreach Coordinator (AOC) to the Special Infectious Diseases team. The goal in creating this new position is to build a network of support to help adolescents access prevention information, support, testing and treatment services they may not otherwise receive. One component of the coordinator’s work is to identify and build relationships with various community social service agencies, health care facilities, and faith-based organizations that are able to answer questions, share HIV education/prevention materials and provide a support system specific to the needs of adolescents and young adults. In collaboration with these partners, the AOC is helping to develop education trainings, HIV testing and counseling services and other outreach initiatives. The AOC is also strengthening our partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) through which we hope to establish an HIV emergency support hotline for adolescents, their families and their providers.
Keeping kids in our community safe
Injuries are the leading cause of death and subsequent long-term disability to children 1 to 19 years of age. In most cases, these injuries are preventable. In response, the hospital has established a comprehensive Injury Prevention and Research Center that coordinates all hospital activities in both intentional and unintentional injuries. In doing so, we address the leading causes of injury to Illinois children through behavioral risk reduction and the promotion of safe physical and social environments. In support of the Center’s public awareness initiatives, generous donors made possible the production of a public service announcement about identifying and preventing child abuse.
Family amenities at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
When it opens in 2012, Lurie Children’s will be an ultra-modern and adaptable facility that will stay true to and enhance our mission to provide family-centered care. Philanthropy is making the construction of Lurie Children’s possible for Chicago’s families. The facility will be a place where inpatients and families will enjoy a larger Family Life Center, dedicated space for art and recreational activities, private patient rooms with Internet access, on-demand dining options and rest space for parents. In addition, we know that keeping families close together is critical to healing; therefore, Lurie Children’s will include nine family sleep suites for parents who do not want to leave their hospitalized children. Families can also stay at the world’s largest Ronald McDonald House, also under construction, located a short distance away.