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By Christine Imbs

When Mary Jordan opened the doors to Ranken Jordan in 1941, sick kids—at least the very sick ones—were hidden away.

“That’s just the way it was back then,” explains Lauri Tanner, RN, MSN, CEO of Ranken Jordan. “No one wanted to see, much less talk about kids with very serious problems. But Mrs. Jordan wanted to help children, especially those with medical problems. So she built Ranken Jordan on Ladue Road, which was way out in the country at that time. It was state-of-the-art for 1941, but frankly it looked every bit a convalescent home for crippled children.”

Not so today. In 2004 Ranken Jordan erected a 60,000-square-foot hospital on Dorsett Road in Maryland Heights that now serves as a national model for pediatric specialty hospitals. The huge silver and glass structure with its curved lines looks more like a rollercoaster than a hospital. And the interior is far from institutional. There are large open spaces, lots of color and an abundance of natural light streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows, giving the impression that you never really left the outdoors.

“Part of the design of this place is to make kids feel like they’re not in a hospital,” says Nick Holekamp, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Ranken Jordan. “Usually they come from a hospital and are anxious about not going home. But once they get here they quickly realize this is different than where they were. It’s more fun and kid friendly. It reflects our mission.”

Ranken Jordan was originally created to help children who were trying to recover from the ravages of polio, osteomyelitis and bone tuberculosis. Today it has grown into a state-of-the-art, sub-acute pediatric specialty hospital that helps more than 300 sick and seriously injured children each year. And they do it regardless of their ability to pay.

“For the most part about 90 percent of our patients are here through Medicaid or Medicaid Managed Care, so the home situation isn’t always stable. In fact we have some who are homeless,” says Tanner. “But if they meet the criteria to be here and either don’t have the insurance or the insurance company won’t pay for it, we will take those children.”

As one of only five hospitals of this kind in the entire country, Ranken Jordan treats children from across the nation who are stuck in the middle—too sick to go home, yet too well to stay in the hospital. And it seems the need for this interim care continues to increase. Oddly enough, it’s because of our modern medical technologies. Today children with life threatening ailments or severe pre-maturity are surviving where previously they didn’t. The result is that they’re coming out of the hospital sicker, quicker and a lot more frequently.

“They live, but with complications or a dependence on medical technology,” says Holekamp. “They’re not really ready to deal with that. Neither are their parents.”

For example, suppose your 16-year-old scholar athlete has been in a bad car accident. He can no longer walk and has to learn to speak, feed himself and essentially do the most basic self-care processes all over again. Then comes the news that he needs intensive care, but he can’t stay in the hospital.

“Mom? Dad? Are you ready to take care of all this stuff? Are you kidding me,” comments Holekamp. “There’s no way. I think if we’re going to do that good of a job taking care of kids at their sickest, we owe it to them to let them continue their recovery rather than just dropping them back into the community and saying good luck. Here we help them make the transition.”

Each year, Ranken Jordan admits about 180 children into its inpatient program. It’s a figure that Tanner says can be misleading.

“Along with each child, we also serve their parents and siblings, so that number is really a lot higher,” she says. “Basically, during the crisis time, jobs and quite, often other siblings are forgotten. We give them the time and space to take care of themselves and to figure out what they need to do. We also help them learn everything they need to bring their child home.”

Ranken Jordan also provides an outpatient program staffed by occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech-language therapists with extensive pediatric experience. Children in the program not only have access to a fully equipped pediatric therapy gym, but the only designated Pediatric Aquatic Therapy Pool in the region. It’s just another way they live up to Mary Jordan’s legacy to, “Consider the children first in all we do.”

“We’re giving opportunities to those kids and their parents when others have said, ‘There’s nothing more we can do,’” says Tanner. “That’s the stuff that keeps me coming to work everyday.”

 

 

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Cover Story
David Duncan
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