Left to Right: Dr. Magee L. DeFelice of A.I. duPont Hospital for Children is one of this year’s Top Doctors. See page 110 for a list of Top Docs for Kids.; Dr. Roy Proujansky, chief executive of Nemours â€¨Delaware Valley operations, was among the medical â€¨staff that helped design â€¨the $275 million expansion, pictured in the background.; Kay Holbrook is associate administrator at the hospital..; To repay A.I. duPont Hospital for Children for saving her daughter Heidi’s life, Lisa Stammerjohann joined the Family Advisory Council that consulted â€¨on the new expansion â€¨of the hospital.
The new 450,000-square-foot addition features 144 patient rooms.
The atrium also serves a more serious purpose: movie night. Thanks to a screen and projector in the ceiling, kids from across the hospital can gather to watch from balcony-like areas on every floor. There are even special alcoves for those confined to bed. “Some children are here a long time,” Holbrook says. “We need to maintain normalcy.”
Common areas are decorated with 300 works of art by local youngsters. Kids respond to kids, Holbrook says, and many recognize works made by their friends. “Delaware is small,” says Proujansky. “That community sense needed to be re-created in the building.”
The Nemours/A.I. duPont expansion began with a capital campaign to raise more than $25 million for the $275 million project. For the design, architects and administrators sought advice from children and families from the start. “They didn’t build, then ask questions,” says Stammerjohann. “They asked questions first.”
Working in pre-built mock patient rooms elsewhere on the campus, parents advised on everything from the placement of hooks for diaper bags to the number of windows in a door. They suggested building the solariums, serenity rooms and pocket parks as places of refuge, and they tested sofas and chairs for comfort. They were consulted on paint colors and lighting options—even counter lengths and placement of electrical outlets. “‘Where can I plug in my phone?’ seems like a minor thing, [but it’s] big when you’re in that moment,” Stammerjohann says.
All the input was balanced with the concerns and needs of clinicians. How long would it take to move an intensive-care patient to an operating room? Could natural light be channeled to nurses’ stations? Would it be possible to extend overhead tracks from any part of a patient area to the toilet room?
“The Family Advisory Council had veto power, and sometimes they surprised us,” says Proujansky. “We originally designed with two doors in every room. They told us there was too much noise, too little privacy.”
Most members of the family council had experienced long stays at the hospital, so they wanted to be sensitive to clinicians’ needs. “I didn’t want it to be so family-centered that it was self-centered,” Stammerjohann says. “If something is needed to resuscitate my child, I want that to happen. It’s a hospital, not a hotel.”
The younger voices were heard, as well. “That was a first for me,” says project leader Lee Seggern, staff architect in the Nemours Corporate Facilities office, with a laugh. “I’ve worked with lots of committees, but never kids.”
“They call it ‘their’ hospital,” adds Holbrook.
Retired Realtor Dick Christopher, with fellow board of directors member Jack Porter, co-chaired the capital campaign for the expansion. The longtime head of Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate says the campaign was a first for the Nemours Foundation. “Professional consultants told us we could raise $12 million,” says Christopher. “I thought they seriously underestimated the value of this hospital to the community.”
Funded by the Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust, the foundation has received more than $1.9 billion for preservation of the Nemours estate and care of children in Delaware and Florida since 1935.
Last year, the trust yielded $133 million, which allowed Nemours to provide $211 million in services. Some of that money is spent on research and preventive medicine, but a good portion goes to uncompensated care. The hospital can’t refuse treatment to any child, regardless of ability to pay.
That was a point Christopher made again and again to prospective donors. Apparently, it worked: Eighty-five percent of his prospects gave. “Most people have no idea the breadth and depth of the hospital’s involvement with this community,” he says.
So far, the campaign has raised more than $25 million toward Christopher’s $27 million target. “The capital campaign was the first opportunity to have personal considerations about who we are and what we do,” he says. “Having the expansion to ground that conversation is fantastic. It’s a chance to broaden our relationship with the community.”
And that’s a good thing because, after nearly 75 years, many Delawareans still don’t know what happens there. On one end, Nemours/A.I. duPont offers childhood literacy programs and help to dyslexic students. On the other, it provides care to 85 percent of the Delaware children who need inpatient treatment annually, while conducting cutting-edge research.
The facility began as the A.I. duPont Institute, a pediatric orthopedic hospital. It became a full-service pediatric hospital in 1984. As for this latest transformation, it began just as Nemours was completing construction of a new $450 million
children’s hospital in Florida.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden asserted that, in building the Florida facility, directors of the Nemours Foundation were neglecting their commitment to the children of Delaware. The courts disagreed. The new expansion stands as proof of that commitment.
“When we finish this, we’re going to turn right around and start on the old building,” says Proujansky.
That renovation will improve many outpatient services. When it’s finished, the hospital will be prepared to meet the needs of Delaware children for decades to come. “One could easily imagine that building will get us another 70 years,” Proujansky says. “Health care changes, so no one knows what it will be then. But that building is made to be adaptable.”