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Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital to open new unit

BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
Abigail Snyder, a teacher at Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland, reads a book to a group of children gathered Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine hospital is about to start a new chapter in care for Maine’s critically ill children and their families.

A new pediatric intensive care unit with eight beds is about to open at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital.

It’s the result of years of planning and community support from events such as the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon.

Even now, eight months later, it’s hard for Raeann Cook to talk about the rocky start her baby Parker had, when he was born with a serious heart defect.

“He actually had a gap in his aortic arch,” Cook said.

The condition would require major surgery at delivery and two weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. It was scary.

“And being hooked up to so many tubes and wires — he had tubes hanging out everywhere,” Cook said. “He had two drainage tubes in his belly. It’s just scary to see your son look like that.”

Parker turns 8 months old Friday and is a healthy 20 pounds. He’s with his parents visiting the brand new PICU, or pediatric intensive care unit, set to open next week.

“It’s so incredibly calm and beautiful, and the colors are great and welcoming,” Cook said. “Seems very family friendly. It’s going to be really nice.”

The new PICU represents the vision of longtime staff members such as Dr. Sandy Bagwell.

“When I first walked into this unit, and just to see the light and the happiness, it really was exciting to see,” Bagwell said. “We’re looking forward to it.”

Each of the eight rooms is spacious and inviting, with room for the most advanced technology and for the families who may spend days, even weeks here. The rooms include a low-tech but effective dry-erase board for easier communication.

One of the rooms is what you might call a “bubble” room, a positive pressure room for some of the sickest patients.

The quality of care won’t change — only the surroundings. That’s part of the healing process, too.

Another advantage of the new unit is that it’s on the same floor as the in-patient unit, so there will be a much smoother transition when children go from “critical” to “continuing” care.

The first children will be moved up to the new unit April 11.

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