By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator  

Coming in at five stories, 630,000 square feet and $230 million of the latest medical technology and features, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge is ready to enter the ring in the fight against childhood illness. Standing as a colorful beacon in the landscape of medical facilities, the hospital is easily seen and accessed from busy I-10 and it’s located less than two miles from I-12.  

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The new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge has an outdoor play area featuring a meditative area, gardens and colorful playhouses. The outdoor area is adjacent to the cafeteria. It also includes a covered patio featuring stained glass panels of the life of St. Francis that were part of the original Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.  Photos by Richard Meek | The Catholic Commentator  

 

“We see about 100,000 kids a year from throughout the state of Louisiana from all 64 parishes,” said Trey Williams, director of public relations for the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System. “That’s the size of LSU stadium.”  

And treating such young patients was a priority in the design of the new facility. Everything from colors and artwork to sound and furniture were created to keep thoughts of illness, anxiety and treatment at bay. Patients arriving at the hospital enter through a brightly colored glass portico filled with the sounds of birds indigenous to Louisiana. Support beams of the portico feature hand motion-controlled melodies.  

Entering the lobby area feels like walking onto a steamship docked on the Mississippi River. Waves carved onto an opposite wall invite children to slide on the slick surface and windows reaching up to the second floor provide bright light. A modern chandelier in the form of a cross hangs in front of a wooden perforated board that mimics the sunlight on the waters of the Mississippi. Even the floor tiles, in shades of dark and light blue, mimic the rolling waves of the river, with intermittently spaced lights projecting the image of fish on the floor.  

The ground floor of the hospital is the hubbub of activity featuring patient registration portals, a resource center for families, a chapel (still under construction) and the emergency room area. There are four triage units for patient assessments and 30 ER rooms.  

According to Williams, 35,000 children visit the emergency room at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge annually.  

“We also have a transport team so when a child is at another facility that cannot take care of the child’s needs, they will contact us and within 30 minutes, the team is activated,” he said, adding that the transport team has been active for six years and has transferred 1,250 patients. 

Each floor of the hospital has a color theme and mascot representing the ecosystem of the Bayou State. Both also act as a reference guide for children or even parents who get lost among the floors.  

“St. Francis was very much about nature and animals,” explained Williams. “As you go through the hospital you’ll see that influence. You’ll see animals, you’ll see trees, you’ll see signs of nature throughout.”  

The mascot for the first floor is the pelican. The mascot for the second floor, which houses the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic, is the spoonbill. Here, the set-up is very much like a mini-St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Bright colors are seen throughout including the 12 infusion bays for chemotherapy or sickle cell treatment. The bays are private and are set up with televisions and a gaming system network. Also, any patients of St. Jude can continue their treatment at the clinic and avoid the travel to Memphis.  

“It allows families to stay together,” said Williams. “This also keeps the support network of a family together so friends and family are here to assist if needed.”  

Another advantage of housing the clinic in the hospital is for inpatient care. Previously, the clinic was housed a few blocks away from Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.  

The third floor, with its sunny yellow colored walls, bright furniture and marshland mascots of deer and fox belies, its purpose: surgery. Five large operating rooms are equipped to handle any type of surgery. 

On the fourth floor, rivers and streams flow with a beaver and fish for the intensive care unit (ICU). Glass windows and doors on the rooms help nurses keep a watchful eye on patients. Also, there are no restrictions on visitation for family members who are provided with foldout couches and chairs in each room for overnight stays.  

The fifth floor depicts the piney woods of Louisiana with its mascots of the black bear and raccoon. Patients with typical medical conditions are treated here with large rooms complete with foldout couches and chairs for overnight stays.  

Every room in the hospital has a desk and display board for the children to hang their artwork, cards and letters.  

Bright green floor tiles and ceiling boards create the sense of a “front porch” along the long hallways.  

There are also four sibling rooms.  

“Sometimes families would have more than one child in the hospital at a time so a child would be in one room and another child would be in another room,” explained Williams. “So mom and dad were having to go back and forth trying to take care of both kids and not play favorites.” 

There is a teen room and a large playroom, not only filled with games and toys but also a closed-circuit television for broadcasting in patients’ rooms.  

“You’ll see a lot of time and effort put into the aspect of family in the hospital’s design,” noted Williams. “We encounter families when a child is sick, parents are worried, kids are worried … so we know that support network from their own family, but also their community and friends, plays an important in the healing process.”  

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Bishop Michael Duca said a prayer and blessed the audience at the Children’s Hospital grand opening.