You Travel for Extraordinary Care
Last fall, when Mary Frances Gallagher's cold, complicated by asthma, got worse rather than better after a week, there was only one place for her to come: the Emergency Department at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
Mary Francis, 17, has been coming to CHOP from her home in Lancaster, Pa., for 15 years. "When she was just over 2," her mother Renée recalls, "we were referred to a specialist at CHOP for one issue, and while we were there, another problem surfaced. We were so impressed by the care she received that we switched all of her pediatric care to CHOP."
So whether it was surgery to place ear tubes or visits to the Division of Pulmonary Medicine for asthma treatment or primary care checkups at the CHOP Care Network Faculty Practice or even getting braces, the Gallaghers got in the car and drove an hour and 15 minutes east to Philadelphia.
"You travel for extraordinary care," says Renée. "It's totally worth it."
Even Mary Francis, now a high school junior at Lancaster Country Day School, doesn't mind the drive. "I think all the doctors and nurses are incredibly smart and helpful," she says. "Everyone is so nice, too."
Mary Francis' most recent trip to the ED resulted in a week-long Hospital stay to treat pneumonia and break up a mucus plug that had collapsed one lung. "Once we arrived, I thought, 'We're here; it's going to be OK,'" Renée says. "Being at CHOP gives you a level of confidence that you're in great hands."
The attending physician assigned to the unit during Mary Francis' hospitalization was Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., director of CHOP's Center for Applied Genomics, who has discovered the genetic markers for many conditions. "He was wonderful," Renée says. "I found out that he was this world-renowned genomics researcher, but when he was in the Hospital, he was all about Mary Francis and her pneumonia and how she was doing. Throughout our years at CHOP, that's what we've seen: No matter the service, no matter the doctor, you receive the same concern and care."
It had been a few years since Mary Francis had to be hospitalized, so it was Renée's first experience with being asked to participate in daily medical rounds, when the care team moves through the unit, discussing each patient in detail and providing updates on tests, medications and treatment plans. Unlike many Hospitals, CHOP encourages patient families to be present and to participate during rounds. Clinical teams know that parents — and the patient — can offer a perspective that no doctor or nurse can.
"Here would be eight or so really bright people sharing ideas about the best way to help Mary Francis," Renée says. "They really wanted my comments, and I felt comfortable asking questions. It was wonderful to be part of rounds."
Mary Francis found participating reassuring. "At first, I was on edge and scared," she says. "They answered my questions so I could understand what was going on, and that made me feel much better. From my nurses to my doctors, I felt like I was in the best hands."
Mary Francis' asthma is once again under control, and the family doesn't expect to make any unscheduled trips on the turnpike anytime soon. But if a problem does arise, the car will head east.
"Going to CHOP is always a wake-up call," Renée says. "We've been lucky that Mary Francis' issues have been manageable. But you see children who are suffering from so many life-threatening illnesses and who have come from near and far to Philadelphia because CHOP is the best. It makes you humble and grateful that we have this amazing hospital a little over an hour away."