Written by Dermot Connolly
Less than 24 hours after the eight-story East Tower at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn officially opened on Sunday, the first baby was born in the new birthing center on the second floor, which is dedicated to women and children services.
Officials of the hospital at 4440 W. 95th St., said Chicago resident Crystal Baker gave birth to Leonardo, weighing in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces, at 12:38 a.m. Monday.
But before he got to take a look around, Oak Lawn officials, residents and others connected to the hospital in some way were given guided tours on Jan. 6, following a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the facility.
The eight-story building has 357,000 square feet of space, and cost $222 million.
Outside the interfaith Molenhouse Chapel on the first floor is a prayer wall, where prayer requests can be slipped into pockets of light between translucent panels.
The first floor also includes a lactation center, with consultation rooms as well as a retail center where breast pumps and other equipment new mothers may need can be rented. Clothing for mothers and babies may also be purchased.
In addition to labor and delivery suites, including eight for high-risk patients, the second floor has four C-section surgical suites. Three of the surgical suites are equipped to deliver singlets and twins, and the fourth is big enough for triplets.
The second-floor birthing center also features family waiting rooms, and a play area for young children. A private lounge, called Jane’s Room, was donated by the Jane B. Wellstein Memorial Fund for use by families grieving the loss of an infant.
A pedestrian bridge across Kostner Avenue links the second floor with the newly built Garage A, which has 780 parking spaces. The floor is also connected to the existing neonatal intensive care unit.
The third through fifth floors are mechanical space, while the sixth floor is a continuation of women and children services, and houses 36 post-partum delivery rooms and the infant nursery.
“The 12 beds in the nursery are a relatively small number, because the goal is for healthy babies to stay with mothers in their rooms,” said tour guide DeAnna Malloy.
Family lounges on the sixth, seventh and eight floors, have vending machines, showers and lockers, allowing families to take breaks from the patient rooms but remain on the same floor.
The seventh and eighth floors house 42 private intensive care rooms, and 30 -private “step-down” rooms, for those transitioning from intensive care to a general unit. The seventh floor is the medical intensive care unit, while the eighth is for cardiovascular thoracic ICU, for heart- and lung-transplant patients.
What amazed most visitors taking tours was the Smart Technology available in every room. Among other things, electronics in every room can read the IDs worn by all the medical professionals, and each time they come in their visits are recorded. Their names are also displayed on large computer screens in the rooms, so patients can see them, and the visits are automatically recorded on the patients’ medical records. Patients can also use the computers to go online.
Lights outside the rooms alert nursing staff if they are being called, and change color also when nurses enter them, making it easier for a whole floor to be surveyed.
“The only thing that could make it better would be self-making beds, and self-cleaning bedpans,” joked retired Dr. Carolyn Smeltzer, 91, who toured the facility last Friday following the ribbon-cutting.
Back on the first floor, there is also an updated Café 95 restaurant that is open to the public. In addition to featuring a wide-range of healthy food choices, it has Starbucks coffee, available at a service window in the hallway.
Kenneth Lukhard, the president of the hospital, said the unveiling was the culmination of a 10-year project that will put an end to overcrowding. He pointed out that the expansion plans were initially unveiled in 2008, but were put on hold until 2010 due to the downturn in the economy.
He said expansion plans began with the groundbreaking on Aug. 19, 2013.
Lukhard said that the 10-year growth plan that began with the opening of the new outpatient pavilion in 2014, will conclude with the expansion of the emergency services area using space freed up due to the East Tower opening. But aside from a new emergency room entrance, the exterior work has been completed.
The president said that due to overcrowding for virtually three months out of the year, the trauma center has been on bypass, unavailable to take in emergency patients. But that will no longer be necessary.
“We are thrilled that (the construction) is winding down. We are so appreciative of the good partner you have been to this village,” said Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury.
“The complexity of what you have done here is astounding to me,” said the mayor, who is an optometrist. “We are bursting with pride and joy in Oak Lawn,” she added.