New South Bend children's hospital will bring care closer to home


Illness can be tough on any family. When it involves a child it can be life-altering.

Right now, families all over our area have to travel hundreds of miles to get life-saving treatment for their kids.

But a new building going up near downtown South Bend could bring that treatment closer to home.

The people pushing for this new facility hope it not only makes things easier for those families -- they want it to be something the world has never seen.

"Basically I have everything superheroes," said 6-year-old Adler Carris.The world in Adler Carris' bedroom revolves around super heroes. But he has a world of experience fighting something other than his arch-enemies."When somebody tells you your child has cancer, you're hit in the gut," said Elizabeth Carris, Adler's mother.That gut punch is what the Carris family has been dealing with for the past couple of years. Regular trips to the children's hospital in Chicago to treat his brain cancer-- each trip a three-day commitment."It's expensive. It is. It's $500-600 every time we go," Elizabeth said.It's a similar burden for other local families. A burden that could soon be eased with the construction the new Memorial Children's Hospital."Kids and their families should be able to get care as close to home as possible," said Memorial Hospital President Kreg Gruber.Gruber has been building a team of specialists to provide that care for the past few years.

While he admits the hospital won't be able to provide every service the big city hospitals can, it will be able to take care of most needs in our community."Parents of these kids have been able to keep their jobs because they don't have to travel three hours away. They don't have to stay in hotels. They can be right here in town and it's a 15 minute drive or a half-hour drive," Gruber said.The team designing the new hospital traveled far and wide to come up with a design they hope will be a cutting-edge model, not just by today's medical standards, but for years to come.

The goal is to have it opened by the middle of next year.

The Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit will see the most changes.

Memorial will do what few are doing-- treat mothers and babies in the same room. Typically that doesn't happen."During those first few hours and days, mothers are separated from their babies at a crucial time for both of them. They're very vulnerable," said Neonatologist, Dr. Robert White.The hospital built a mock-up of an entire wing. They brought in doctors, nurses, equipment, and families, all to help them figure out what was needed."The concept that this is about families rather than babies is really a change in perspective," White said.Families become part of the medical team. Medical professionals are excited about that change in perspective.

Families are just looking forward to the day life is a little less complicated."We could go here, get it done in the morning. He could come home get to sleep in his bed, get his snacks, his own food. One stop," said Elizabeth.Allowing Adler a chance to be a kid."I am a superhero. Because I'm good at fighting cancer," he said.

And he is. After 15 months of chemo, Adler's now stable, his cancer is no longer growing. His mom says he could stay that way for a long time.

Now they're hoping that they can take Adler to Chicago for fun instead of medical treatments.

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