By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - Surrounded with gentle colors and soft sounds, the children residing as patients at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center and Heart Institute are enjoying the latest remodeling the hospital has done for its youngest patients.
The hospital recently added a pediatric intensive care unit to the hospital, enabling it to provide critical care to patients 18 and younger.
"We have been working in this direction for a long time," said Beth McNees, director of nursing for medical and surgical services.
The new space took about six months to complete, and the 5,000-square-foot unit now features six beds, with an additional 16-bed pediatric unit.
"This enables the child as they get better, to move into a more child-friendly environment," she said.
Each room of the intensive care unit contains slightly smaller beds, made to make a child feel more comfortable. The rooms also contain a large couch that folds out for a relative to be able to stay, and medical equipment that is concealed behind cabinet doors so not to scare the child.
"There are approximately 12 registered nurses, all with pediatric intensive care experience, that work, in addition to eight pediatric physicians," Ms. McNees said.
The hospital even has a pediatric-friendly emergency room to help make children feel more at ease.
One of the big advantages of having the new intensive care unit is that local families do not have to drive long distances for care.
"Children with chronic illness used to have to travel out of town," she said. "It means a lot to the families to be able to stay in the area."
Also, the hospital can now take pediatric intensive care patients from other counties, such as Indian River and Okeechobee.
The floor also offers extra security, with its own security staff, along with other personal safeguards for the children.
"We're very careful about how we protect the children," she said.
The next step for the children's part of the hospital is a remodel of the nursery area, expected to start soon.