CINCINNATI — Tiffany Messer thought she’d never go back to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital after the death of her son, Benjamin. The newborn spent 110 days in cardiac intensive care, then a year in and out of surgery. Then he was gone.
But Messer knew she could help other parents when the hospital asked her to help design its new intensive care building. She had a perspective that architects and doctors didn’t.
“I just kept feeling like I wanted Ben’s life to mean something,” she said Tuesday.
The hospital’s new extension opens in November. Workers and visitors will arrive in an environment designed with the input of parents and patients who know what it’s like to spend long days and nights in intensive care.
“I struggled with my mental health a bit over quarantine, but honestly, I never thought about quitting my work with Children’s because they make me feel so heard,” said Anna Schlosser, who spent a week in cardiac intensive care when she was 10.
At a rented warehouse, in a mock hospital room with styrofoam walls, Schlosser, Messer and others spent two years telling architects, doctors, nurses and staff what patients need most.
The new building has rooms three times bigger than they’d been before, plus special two-way closets that enable staff to empty trash, remove laundry and drop off prescriptions without bothering patients.
“(It’s great) just seeing how everyone at Children’s pays so much attention to what we are saying,” Schlosser said. “They’re writing it down. They’re taking notes. And they come back in the next meeting and say, ‘OK, here’s what we talked about.’”
The hospital benefits, too. Officials estimate the process saved about $10 million by sidestepping the need for post-construction changes.
“If they had built it this (original) way, the patients and families would have come in and they would have said, ‘No, thank you,’” Messer said.
Beth Moone, a family engagement specialist at the hospital, said her colleagues were touched by the chance to incorporate real families’ and patients’ feedback into their work.
“I watched staff,” she said. “The response that they had. There were some that had tears. I mean, it was emotional. That’s the kind of gift the families gave the staff that were working on this project.”