Pediatrics department finds success

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 10, 2013 

Columbus Regional Chief of Pediatrics Joseph Zanga says the Pediatric Emergency Department at The Medical Center is accomplishing its mission.

"It is doing exactly what we expected it to do," he said of the facility that opened June 12.

That includes helping save lives.

Such was the case with Elizabeth Hudson and her son, Jayden.

They needed the services of the department the first week it was open.

Jayden, who has autism, was having his 11th birthday party and was in the swimming pool. While there, he digested a chlorine tablet, which can be caustic and poisonous.

He was taken by ambulance to the hospital's newest addition.

His mother said despite communication problems and the urgency of the situation, department workers made Jayden comfortable.

"The workers there knew Jayden was special and made things easier for him. They stayed close and explained to him everything that they were doing," the mother said. "They were very compassionate."

Chlorine can cause burns in the mouth and throat, so the staff worked hard to get the boy to spit out chlorine residue.

"I know they were just doing their job, but I think the people there went above and beyond what they needed to do," the mother said.

Jayden was taken by helicopter later that night to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston for further treatment. He spent three days there and escaped serious health damage.

Zanga said the department has been busy. Since its opening, it has averaged 42 patients per day. More than 60 were seen on Labor Day, including a couple of children with broken arms.

The department is open 8 a.m. to midnight and Zanga expects the number of patients to grow once it becomes a 24-hour operation in the near future.

The department is 5,080 square feet of space in a place previously used for rehabilitation. It has its own entrance and is directly adjacent to the hospital's emergency and trauma center.

It features a medical screening room and seven treatment rooms. New specialized equipment includes specific fluid infusers for child IV therapy, pediatric respiratory equipment, a transilluminator to help find smaller and hard-to-find veins, a low dose CT machine approved for pediatric use and cardiac monitors in each room.

Though Zanga does not work in the department, he comes down to talk to the children. When he does, he often wears a red clown's nose.

"It puts the children at ease," he explained.

The department is popular with families, he said, "as much as any medical facility can be."

Zanga said children like it because of the bright colors. Parents like it because their children are not in a room with adults in various stages of distress.

The wait is usually shorter.

"If parents are upset, children get upset," Zanga said.

The department's atmosphere aims at removing some of the anxiety. Zanga remarked that a child may looks sicker than they really are because they are anxious.

Though they treat a lot of very ill children, Zanga said he would classify less than 10 percent as real emergencies.

He said the department fits in well with Columbus Regional's plans to extend pediatric services in the community. Those plans include bringing in more pediatric specialists and a renovated and expanded children's hospital in The Medical Center which could be complete by the end of the year.

He said he has gotten the sense that the department has taken some pressure off personnel in the hospital's emergency and trauma unit. With fewer patients, those in need can get service quicker, Zanga said.

Zanga said that at both places those who are in the worst condition are seen first.

Scharlyn Nabors is a registered nurse who works in the pediatric department.

"We are all children lovers here," she said. "It is a place that is pediatric specific. People are pleasantly surprised by what they see here and how quickly they are helped."

Related stories:

Pediatric Emergency Department opens today at The Medical Center

Paul, Courtney Amos donate $1.5 million toward Columbus Regional's Pediatric Emergency Department

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