it's a nice thing to do

Wow, I can't believe the luck some people have (or don't).

A lovely family was in the process of moving from New Jersey to South Carolina, but were on their way first to Tennessee for the Thanksgiving holiday. They happened to stop in Roanoke and got a room at the brand-new hotel across the street from our hospital. In the middle of the night, the youngest child became very ill with wheezing and respiratory distress. Although he had had problems with wheezing many times during his first year of life, he had not had any problems for nearly a year. His mom was trying to treat his symptoms with medication she brought with her, but it wasn't working, so they brought him to our pediatric emergency department, and he was admitted to our pediatric floor.

Luckily the child was not very ill, and if he lived locally, perhaps could have been able to go home directly from the ED with close follow up. But since they would be traveling for the next several weeks before they get settled, and since they have no primary doctor in their new location, who would follow him?

So, although a bit stressful for this family, we decided to keep him so we could watch his progress closely, and have our pediatric pulmonary (lung) doctor see him. It turned out that the pulmonologist has a very close colleague in the city to which these folks are moving, and was able to both make recommendations for ongoing acute care, start the process of more chronic treatment of what most certainly at this point is asthma, and get him set up for follow up in their new home town.

Because they needed to get on the road as early as possible today, the day before Thanksgiving, we also made arrangements to get them discharged BEFORE the official start of the day. Typically our team makes "rounds" starting at about 8 am, and it may take a few hours to see all the patients in the morning. So often, it is difficult to get patients discharged before about 10 am. However, I asked the first year resident who was on call over night to assess him several times, and to call me at 6:30 to let me know whether he thought the patient was stable for discharge, which he did. At that point I came in, spoke with the family, examined the child and sent them on their way.

This took a little bit of extra effort on my part, but I know it was the right thing to do. I know it is what I would want for my family if I were in their position, and I know we made a friend for life.

What could have been a distressing, miserable experience for this family has turned into a situation they are giving thanks for: that they chose Roanoke as a stopping point, that they stayed in the Cambria Suites, that they found the only pediatric Emergency Department in the region, that Dr. Muelenaer has the right connections in their new city in S.C., and that we were willing and able to make our system work for them.

I too, am thankful for this experience, and don't miss the extra hour of sleep at all.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Recent Comments

Alice, I need some information please: yesterday my cousin's grandson (6 weeks old)seemed to have an unusual seizure( as dx'd by his pediatrician) he went completely limp and unresponsive for a period of 15-20 min. He had no previous febrile episodes, crying spells or injuries.Last Thursday he received his first DPT. Could you shed some professional light from your experience as well as some links to professional articles I could read on the subject. Presently he is undergoing tests at Schneider Childrens Hosp. in New Hyde Park.

Alice, Your "Thanksgiving" thoughts could not have come at a more appropriate time. Clearly God was watching over them and steered them in the right direction at the right time to the right place with the right physician in charge for the problem He knew was about to happen. It wasn't just "a nice thing to do" it was and is the only right thing to do; to give aid to all who ask without second thought and to go beyond what is required. God bless you and your staff this Thanksgiving.

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About Dr. Ackerman

Alice Ackerman, MD, MBA, FAAP, FCCM is the Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Carilion Clinic and Professor and Founding Chair of Pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. Dr. Ackerman is recognized nationally as an expert in pediatric critical care.

She has been at Carilion Clinic since June of 2007. Her primary goals are to enhance the health care of children in the Roanoke Valley and Southwest Virginia, and is actively working to do this both as physician in chief of the children's hospital, as well as through involvement with many state-wide initiatives.

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