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NEW CHOC TOWER MADE JUST FOR KIDS

January 29, 2013

From The Orange County Register

Published January 29, 2013

By Courtney Perkes / Orange County Register

ORANGE – Children's Hospital of Orange County will soon open its own emergency department and operating rooms, designed for the needs of premature infants to strapping high school athletes.

A new $560 million expansion has tripled the size of CHOC with construction of a seven-story tower. Various departments will open early next month, but the culmination will come in March when the pediatric hospital opens a 31-bed emergency department and seven operating rooms.

"It will be the first time since we opened our doors that all the services will be provided under one roof," said Kim Cripe, chief executive. "It's a state-of-the-art facility. It's serene. It's cheerful. It's inspirational. We're extremely proud of what we've created."

Since CHOC opened in 1964, it has relied on neighboring St. Joseph Hospital for an array of facilities, services and equipment, including operating rooms and the emergency department. Once the new tower is operational, patients will no longer be transported via underground tunnel between the two hospitals. CHOC also will provide its own cardiac testing, diagnostic imaging and lab services.

"You really can't say it enough: Children truly aren't little adults," Cripe said. "Their anatomy is different; their emotional needs are quite different."

On Saturday, CHOC will offer public tours during a community celebration to mark the finish of the 426,000-square-foot tower. Construction began in the fall of 2009.

The new tower contains all private rooms, including two larger, specially outfitted "rainbow rooms" for children nearing the end of life. At the request of cancer patients and their parents, the oncology floor contains a gym. A second-floor lobby entrance will feature a giant sea-themed Nemo mobile and a huge interactive screen with animated aquarium life created by Disney for CHOC.

A twinkling starry sky includes a constellation of CHOCO the bear, the hospital's mascot, who was designed by a Disney illustrator. Each level incorporates artwork and floor mosaics of nature themes such as birds and sky, bugs and flowers and outer space.

A 3,000-square-foot outdoor play and rehab area was designed to look like a beach boardwalk and can accommodate IV poles. A pool table and air hockey game will outfit the teen area.

Other child-centric touches range from tiny chairs in the emergency room lobby to cardiac testing equipment designed for still growing hearts. When children need to undergo MRIs, they will be given virtual reality goggles that will play movies.

"They've been shown to reduce sedation time, imaging time and help them stay still," said Dr. Nathan Holmes, medical director of radiology.

Dr. James Perog, interim medical director for the emergency department, said patients will be moved quickly from the lobby to a bed to minimize hours-long wait times. He said CHOC's patients and St. Joseph's older patients will benefit from having their own waiting rooms and facilities.

"When we separate, it's going to be better for both age groups," Perog said.

CHOC's architect Gary Owens said distracting young patients, their parents and siblings, goes a long way in reducing anxiety.

"The big message was a journey of discovery," Owens said. "As you walk through the whole space, everywhere you look there's something to see, there's something new."

CHOC will hold a free community celebration Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at 1201 W. La Veta Ave. in Orange. La Veta between Main and Pepper streets will be closed for the event. Guided tours will be offered and there will be live music, activities and appearances from Disney and Nickelodeon stars.

Contact the writer: 714-796-3686 or cperkes@ocregister.com
 

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Children's Hospital of Orange County is affiliated with UC Irvine Healthcare and UC Irvine School of Medicine

CHOC Children's - 1201 W La Veta Ave, Orange, CA. Phone: 714-997-3000. .