University of Chicago Medical Center opens state-of-the-art children's emergency department

December 5, 2006

The City of Chicago's newest and most advanced pediatric emergency department opens 8 a.m. on December 6, 2006, at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital. The Comer Emergency Department contains the most up-to-date facilities for children with complex surgical and medical needs.

The new department boasts programs and cutting-edge equipment that are dedicated to the specialized needs of children with cancer, epilepsy, cardiac disease and severe trauma, making it the most prepared pediatric emergency department in the region to handle the emergency needs of children with complicated diseases.

"This new facility enhances the ability of our dedicated, knowledgeable team to deliver advanced care," said Mark Hostetler, MD, section chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Comer Children's Hospital. "In some cases, we're the front door to diagnosing complex diseases, catching them early and giving our young patients the best possible chance to defeat life-threatening illness."

For instance, four years ago, Latunya Arnold-Roden brought her then 4-year-old daughter Katrina to the University of Chicago children's emergency room. Katrina was suffering from stomach pain, and her mother noticed that minor mosquito bites caused unusual red welts. The little girl also told her mother she didn't want to walk anymore.

Wondering if Katrina had West Nile virus, Arnold-Roden had taken her daughter to a hospital near her home. "She was misdiagnosed at the other hospital," Arnold-Roden said. Unsatisfied with the results, the mother went to the University of Chicago Medical Center.

"They discontinued the medication she was on and did tests in the ER," she said. "I asked a lot of questions. They called me back the next morning and confirmed she had leukemia."

Because doctors identified the disease in its early stages, they and Arnold-Rosen had much hope for the future. Today, Katrina's cancer is in remission. Aside from three-month check-ups, she lives the life of a regular 8 year old.

The new facility is the only level I pediatric trauma center on Chicago's South Side. Of the department's 37 nurses, more than 80 percent are certified in pediatric trauma care. On average, they treat 70 trauma patients per month. In October, the emergency medical staff treated a total of 2,600 patients.

In 2001, Lands' End founder and philanthropist Gary C. Comer (who died this past October) and his wife, Frances, donated $21 million to build Comer Children's Hospital. In 2003, they gave another $20 million to construct the Comer Emergency Department. Earlier this year, the Comers presented a $42 million gift to expand the building that houses the new department, creating the Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care.

"The new emergency department carries on the Comer legacy of quality," said Steve Goldstein, MD, PhD, physician-in-chief of Comer Children's Hospital and chairman of pediatrics at The University of Chicago. "Gary built his business on treating people with dignity and providing the best possible product and service. By the same token, the Comer Emergency Department is a front door to the best possible care for the world's most ill children."

The new emergency department occupies the ground level of the Comer Center for Children and Specialty Care. In the Comer Emergency Department, pediatricians, pediatric surgeons, nurses, social workers and other professionals will treat the most complex cases—not only those with traumatic injuries but also patients with all types of severe illnesses who need emergency specialty care, including patients with congenital heart disease, cystic fibrosis, cancer and neurological disorders.

Staffed by leading physician-scientists, Comer Children's Hospital specializes in neonatology, neurology, transplantation, critical care, minimally invasive surgeries, cardiology and oncology.

The new emergency department, adjacent to Comer Children's Hospital, is located at 5730 S. Drexel Ave. For more information about the Comer Emergency Department or for tours, contact Theresa Carson at 773-702-6241 or theresa.carson@uchospitals.edu.

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John Easton
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john.easton@uchospitals.edu