OLOL Children’s Hospital exceeds expectations  

By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator 

Tears doused the young eyes of Bryson Addison as he awaited an operation to remove his appendix, one more procedure that total far too many in his 11 years. 

Following social distancing and the wearing of masks, several people gathered to attend the first Mass celebrated at OLOL Children’s Hospital on Feb. 20. Photo provided by Grace Weber | Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center 

 

Nearby, his mother, Ashly Dabney, patiently waited, a routine that has become all too familiar as her son copes with asthma and neutropenia, which is an abnormally low number of white blood cells, defender in fighting off infection. 

When a housekeeper entered to clean the room she noticed tears streaming from Addison’s eyes and asked Dabney, “Mom is it okay if I prayer with your son?” 

Dabney immediately responded, “Yes ma’am, please.” 

“This is not within the realm of her job duties but she did that to make my child more comfortable,” she would say later. 

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Bryson Addison gives his stuffed animal a hearty hug while awaiting a procedure at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. The hospital recently celebrated its one year anniversary. Photo courtesy of Ashly Dabney

 

Dabney said it’s the simple things, such as a housekeeper praying with a parent’s child, that sets Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, which opened Oct. 5, 2019, apart. 

Despite unexpected challenges few could have predicted, including a worldwide pandemic that has claimed more than one million lives worldwide, the hospital has flourished. 

“Our staff has held up well,” said Dr. Trey Dunbar, president of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health. “The staff is obviously dedicated to care for those most in need. It is part of our ministry of the Franciscan Health System.” 

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Bryson Addison, 11, suffers from asthma and neutropenia but has developed wonderful relationships with team members at OLOL Children’s Hospital. Photo provided by Ashly Dabney 

 

 Transitioning from being a wing of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to a separate facility was initially an unknown but Dunbar said the move has gone smoothly and has also made a difference in the culture. Being a stand-alone children’s facility allows the staff to focus “100%” of their energy on the young patients, he said. 

“It is a spirit and feel of care and has made a lot of difference in our patient satisfaction and team engagement; having that healing environment, creating a healing spirit,” he said. 

Dunbar cited as an example the ability to anticipate the needs of the children as well as the family in a different way, from the front door to the operating room to the discharge process, adding “it’s not quite the same as you might get in a general hospital.”

Dabney readily agrees, fondly remembering how the staff once brought her a “goodie box” filled with books, personal hygiene products and other items to raise her spirits. 

“It is always a pleasant experience,” said Dabney, who frequents the hospital so often there have been occasions when the ER staff recognized her as soon as she arrived. “The staff goes out of their way to make sure we are comfortable. We’ve never had an experience where somewhere was rude to us.” 

More importantly, Addison is also comfortable with the staff and has even created a secret handshake with one of the nurses. 

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Addison and his mother, Ashly Dabney. Photo provided by Ashly Dabney

 

“It’s one less thing I have to worry about and stress over, to see him as comfortable as he is with the staff,” Dabney said. “Seeing his smile really eases my load as a parent.” 

Dunbar admitted COVID-19 presented unique challenges and directly affected patient population. He said the hospital was “busy, busy, busy and then COVID happened.” 

“It’s a little counterintuitive,” he added. “When you have a pandemic you would think you would see more children but we saw a decrease in the amount of visits. It might have been related to social distancing or other viruses or the fact parents may have been scared to bring children to a hospital where COVID might present.” 

Count Dabney among those parents who were concerned about having her child in a hospital during a pandemic. But her fears were eased by staff members adhering to PPF protocols. 

An increase in the number of negative pressure rooms allowed the staff to care for COVID-19 patients, which cumulatively have totaled more than 100, with limited risk of exposure because it circulates the air in a different way. 

Dunbar noted that very few employees have been diagnosed with the virus and none were identified from hospital exposure but through community spread.  

Even with the pandemic dip, Dunbar said the hospital far exceeded projections, with some departments, including oncology, by 20 percent or more.  

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Addison was a part of the original fundraising effort to build the hospital and has been featured in commercial campaigns for two consecutive years. Photo provided by Ashly Dabney

 

The pediatric trauma program, the only one in the southern part of Louisiana, as well as the pediatric intensive care have also performed well.  

In fact, the hospital has treated patients from 63 of the state’s 64 civil parishes and from neighboring states as well.  

“Overall it went exceptionally well from a process and operations perspective,” Dunbar said. “Throughout the rigors of a very busy clinical schedule, COVID, all the while keeping progress going can be a bit of a challenge. But we’ve done that.  

“I can’t think of a big faux pas.”  

“We knew there was a need in Baton Rouge, and it’s validated that we’re going a long way toward filling that need,” he added.  

Despite the success, or perhaps because of it, more improvements are in the works, including the opening of a Neonatal Intensive Care unit in November. The number of oncology beds will also increase from six to 10, a necessity as oncological service and needs have increased.  

Dabney is indeed grateful for the hospital’s presence, and has high praise for all of the staff, especially the respiratory team. Previously, she would have to travel to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans for certain treatments for her son, requiring her to take a day off from work.  

“It is a lot easier; you do not understand how much easier it is,” she said with a smile.  

The children’s hospital as well as OLOL have special meaning to Dabney and Addison. Addison was a part of the original fundraising effort to build the hospital and has been featured in commercial campaigns for two consecutive years.  

“He calls it his job because he loves to advocate for people like himself,” Dabney said. “His hard work paid off and we feel like a part of the family.”  

Dabney, who is Baptist, also spent four years at OLOL working in the cardiology department and still remembers how the staff would pray together with the sisters before each shift.  

“It speaks volumes about the staff and the faith (at OLOL),” she said. “It is a faith based facility and that is reflective of my own life.” 

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Officials and employees gather at the blessing of the portrait of Sister Linda Constanin OSF at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge. For 30 years Sister Linda served as a nurse and administrator at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge and St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe. Sister Linda died in 2005. Photo provided by Grace Weber | Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center 

 

OLOL Children’s Hospital Timeline

Oct. 5, 2019: Opening day with the first child arriving at the hospital at 6:07 a.m. On this day, 38 patients were transferred across the street from the former location at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to the new facility. At 6:10 a.m., the Children’s Hospital saw its first patient in the emergency department.

Oct. 6, 2019: One day after opening, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital had its first transport patient arrive aboard the brand new Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health Ambulance.
October 2019: Became a certified Level ll Pediatric Trauma Centers, the only program in southern Louisiana.
December 2019: Attached medical office building opened allowing for numerous pediatric specialists to be located in a centralized place.
January 2020: Selected as one of eight hospitals in the country to collaborate with Johns Hopkins’ PICU Up! program which promotes better mobility and positive outcomes for ICU patients.
January 2020: Joined Solutions for Patient Safety, a group of 100 pediatric institutions focused on improving quality for children.
Feb. 20, 2020: The inaugural Mass was celebrated in the hospital’s chapel just days before commemorating Ash Wednesday on Feb. 26.
March 2020: Opened Baton Rouge’s first pediatric otolaryngology program, more commonly known as ear, nose and throat.
April 2020: Launched a partnership with HALO called the ABCs of Sleep project which provides sleep sacks and education for parents to support safe sleep and SIDS prevention.
May 2020: Construction began on an 11-bed, Level 3 surgical neonatal intensive care unit. The NICU is set to open later this fall.
June 2020: The Big Virtual Bash was held as a three-day virtual event beginning on June 18 and concluding on June 20. Proceeds raised from The Big Virtual Bash were dedicated toward the pediatric intensive care unit.
July 2020: Initiated daily operating room interdisciplinary care team huddles to improve efficiencies and quality in all areas of patient care.
September 2020: “Believe It, Achieve It” mobility campaign launched, promoting mobility for pediatric patients with chronic conditions.