RICHMOND, Va. -- In a spectacular light show, orchestrated by first responders, the first patients in the brand-new Children’s Tower at VCU Medical Center got a special goodnight on their first night in their new rooms.
More than 50 ambulances lined the streets around VCU Medical Center to flash their lights and sound their sirens.
Many children, and their parents, waved from their rooms high above.
“It was something that I’ll never, ever forget,” parent Ashley Ferguson said. “It felt like the entire city was taking a moment to celebrate these kids and to celebrate this really awesome new addition.”
The new 72-room Children’s Tower is among the largest in the country, with approximately one million feet when combined with the children’s pavilion, dedicated to children and their families.
The facility is home to acute and pediatric intensive care services, as well as a level 1 trauma center with the latest technology for life-saving care.
But for families, like the Fergusons, the new medical center is providing a warm, fun, and kid-friendly environment designed with a mental health focus.
In her bright room, with multi-colored lights and Disney+ channels, Claire Ferguson is slowly getting her strength back.
She’s been in the hospital for nearly a month. She was transferred from the main hospital to her new room in the Children’s Tower on April 30 when the new wing opened.
Claire was born with a rare chromosomal disease that requires frequent visits to specialists and long hospital stays for surgeries and emergencies.
Ashley Ferguson said challenges include not only Claire’s physical health but her emotional well-being.
She said she’s seen a big difference in her daughter since she was transferred to her new room.
“It’s like Disney World for us,” Ferguson said. “When we don’t go places, we’ve been homebound for years, this has been so exciting, so we’re loving it.”
Throughout the medical center, there are animal themes with bright and bold colors.
There’s also an indoor garden with large windows and playrooms and lounges for all ages.
The new tower also has a multi-faith chapel, family gym, cafeteria, and performance space: places not only for children to escape, but their families as well.
Finishing touches are now being made to the new in-hospital Ronald McDonald House.
At 3,000 square feet, the new space will give families a place to relax and sleep, enjoy a hot meal, and take part in calming activities without having to go far from their children who are patients.
Pediatric nurse Jasmine Lawrence said it’s been inspiring to see the impact the facility is having on patients and their families.
“That’s been the most heart-warming and rewarding thing is going into your patients’ rooms and just seeing their faces light up,” Lawrence said.
Coming out of a three-year pandemic, Lawrence said the new facility also brought cheer to doctors, nurses, and staff members.
She said she believed that it was important that medical providers are in an environment that helps them look out for their own mental health, to better care for their patients.
“I’m like ‘Look at this break room! Look at this garden!’’ Lawrence said. “This morning when we were getting off work, we were able to watch the sunrise, and when I say it was the most beautiful, peaceful thing I’ve ever seen!”
Back in Claire’s room, Ashley Ferguson said she can’t help but feel grateful.
“Because you know, you’re going through a lot as well, ups and downs, so they’re just not taking care of her, but they’re honestly taking care of me as well- including Claire’s dad,” Ferguson said.
And that goodnight from first responders on their first night in the Children’s Tower.
“It was like we were living out goodnight moon in real life.”
That’s a memory Ferguson said will continue to give her family strength.
“From the moment that we came in on the ambulance, and a week later when we almost lost her, to today- it’s truly a miracle,” Ferguson said. “They saved my girl, so yeah, to see her now laugh and be sassy again, is a very good thing.”
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