Nemours Children's Hospital is a lifesaver that almost didn't exist

I'm standing on the top floor of the hospital that almost wasn't.

It's a $400 million complex, boasting cutting-edge technology and nationally renowned researchers.

When its doors open this fall, it will have but one goal: to help sick and dying children.

And it didn't cost taxpayers a dime.

The Nemours Children's Hospital in east Orange County's burgeoning Medical City is the kind of asset most communities could only dream of recruiting.

But Central Florida is not like most communities.

Here, Nemours wasn't welcomed with open arms.

Originally, it wasn't welcomed at all.

So, though the October opening is worth celebrating, it's also worth remembering the uphill slog this nonprofit faced in trying to break through Orlando's tightknit establishment community and challenge the status quo.

But first a bit about what makes Nemours special.

We can start with the unique operating rooms — oversized and with windows that allow natural light to flood in. An armory of lifesaving medical equipment hangs from the ceilings — $1.5 million worth of instruments to help everyone from premature babies struggling to breathe to teenage boys whose spines are warped.

The rooms are state of the art. And there are seven of them.

In patient rooms, the technology is so sophisticated that computer scanners detect which employee's badge has entered the room. The doctor's or nurse's name and position immediately pops up on a screen near the patient's bed, so patients know who's visiting.

The hospital will provide the region with its first Muscular Dystrophy Association clinic and will work with the University of Central Florida's nearby medical school.

Nationally recognized teachers and researchers will work here, such as Dr. Richard Finkel, who comes from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (Nemours board Chairman John Lord helped woo Finkel the way Lord did with other top talent: by giving them a blank legal pad and telling them they could design their own dream department.)

I could go on about the hospital's progressive techniques — advanced e-record systems, "healing gardens" where patients can be with nature, and pioneering techniques for physical therapy.

But among the neatest things I spotted were the two kitchens.

One is downstairs where expert chefs will provide cooking demonstrations for parents struggling to learn about their children's special dietary needs.

The other is upstairs on the fifth floor. It has a small stove and sink in a room that also has a shower and bath. It's like an mini-apartment — designed for physical therapy and for kids who need to relearn how to do things themselves.

 

PHOTO GALLERIES