Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Baby Born During Dash to Hospital Gets Big Assist from All Children’s Emergency Crew

It was a delivery that two expectant parents from St. Petersburg never could have dreamed of – taking a frantic, unscripted race to the hospital just a tad further than the classic bits from I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke Show. But fortunately, an Emergency Center team from All Children’s scrambled into action early Easter Sunday morning to help ensure a happy ending to a memorable debut episode in the life of baby Elias Alexander Girau.

The pre-dawn hours of April 20 began quietly enough for Juliana “Julie” Fischer-Girau and husband Emilio Girau, and 4-year-old son Shaun Fischer. But then Julie went from feeling no contractions to a series of extremely strong ones, not at all like her first relatively uneventful delivery. Her water hadn’t broken but the couple knew it was time to get moving, and fast.

 “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go!’ ” Julie recalls. So they grabbed Shaun and began the 15-minute mad dash to downtown St. Petersburg at 6:15 a.m. – intended destination, Bayfront Baby Place, housed on the third floor of All Children’s yet with its own special entrance right next door to the ACH Emergency Center.

But the contractions quickly intensified, along with the parents’ pounding pulses, as their Prius reached the I-175 exit off of Interstate I-275, with the hospital in sight. That’s when Julie, seated in the front passenger seat, cried out, ‘Oh my gosh, my water just broke!” Seconds later, as Emilio gunned it down the ramp, she could feel the baby’s head emerging. “Then I felt another contraction,” Julie says, “and he just popped out completely.”


As Emilio made a right turn on Fourth Street, both parents breathed a momentary sigh of relief when they heard the baby cry. They sped up 6th Avenue South in a surreal frenzy, now intent on getting off the road to deal with the crisis. As it happened, their first possible turn was right into the All Children’s welcome circle.

Emilio leaped out of the driver’s seat and ran to get help in the ACH lobby. Yet in a move worthy of Rob Petrie in the vintage Dick Van Dyke “baby” episode, he failed to put the car in park. And as if things weren’t crazy enough, it began to roll down around the circle toward the street.

Instinctively, Julie pulled the baby from inside her clothing and – with umbilical cord still attached – placed him on the passenger seat. Then she crawled across the gear-shift console into the driver’s seat and hit the brakes before the car could pick up any speed.

Moments later, Emilio returned with All Children’s security guard Kevin Kendall, an employee with fewer than 90 days on the job. It was Kevin who had immediately put out the emergency triage call, and then stood outside Julie’s door re-assuring her while they waited for help. “I didn’t know his name, but he was great,” Julie says. “He really helped calm me down.”

Emilio calmed down as well, after numerous nervous laps pacing around the car. He and Shaun stood watch over the baby on the passenger’s side. That’s when an All Children’s Emergency Center team ran around the corner to handle the chaotic scene unfolding in front of the hospital.

Dr. Wassam Rahman was the emergency department physician who arrived to help, while nightshift paramedic Rich Behers, a military man new to All Children’s, cut the umbilical cord, and nightshift RN Mandy Dix cared for Julie. Without missing a beat, she was placed on a gurney and taken with the baby into the All Children’s EC, where nurses Jen Labato and Christine Schaad delivered the placenta and cared for the emotionally drained mom, and a host of others assisted as well.

“It was a true team effort,” says ACH Executive Director of Nursing and Patient Support Services Susan Byrd, “What began as a triage call really ended up with our people improvising on the spot and doing a wonderful job.”


Amazingly, after all the heart-pounding drama, everyone was doing fine. And soon after, mother and baby were admitted to the Bayfront Baby Place – with a happy big brother and exhausted dad in tow.

“I was just so grateful for the excellent work by everyone who helped us,” Julie says, reflecting on the ordeal. “Everything worked out great in the end. And one thing’s for sure, Elias is going to have a real story to tell for the rest of his life.”

And one that stands proudly alongside Desi, Lucy and Dick – with a helping hand from All Children’s.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reconnection: A Tale With A Twist for Child Life Month at All Children's Hospital

Twenty-four years ago, Carla Householder was a frightened, 13-year-old patient at All Children's Hospital, getting ready to have a biopsy performed on a spinal tumor.

Kristin Maier was working as a young specialist in the Child Life Department she now runs at All Children’s.

The two instantly bonded, and their friendship deepened as Carla was soon diagnosed with cancer. She underwent a series of three difficult surgeries, followed by grueling chemotherapy treatment over the next four years.

They talked endlessly, as Kristin encouraged Carla to stay strong and keep fighting.

They made each other laugh with their similarly playful styles – like the day Carla surprised everyone by tossing off her wig with a grin because it made her head too darn hot.

They cried together during the hard times, when uncertainty weighed on Carla’s mind, or when she learned that she likely would never be able to have a baby due to the harsh effects of the cancer and surgeries. And they cried again when Carla finally beat the cancer and parted ways with her dear pal from Child Life.

Once or twice over the years, their paths crossed. But for the most part, they moved on with their own busy lives as one decade rolled into the next.

Then, last  Friday, Kristin was walking in a hallway near the patient transfer elevators, reading an email on her cellphone.

It was a moment that could just as easily have slipped into the mundane flow of the day. But at the very same instant, a hospital visitor named Rhonda Householder happened to catch a glimpse of the familiar woman from Child Life who had once been such a godsend to her daughter, Carla.

“Kristin, is that you?!” Rhonda called out. Kristin recognized the voice and beamed as she saw Rhonda approaching her. They shared a warm embrace but there was no time for small talk. Rhonda grabbed Kristin’s hand and led her around the corner. There, sitting in a wheelchair – eight months into a pregnancy that was not supposed to be possible – Carla looked up in disbelief.

 “She saw Kristin and just started bawling,” Rhonda recalled. “And then all three of us were bawling.”

Carla had begun to have problems late in her pregnancy and was on her way to Bayfront Baby Place, housed on the third floor of All Children’s, to be induced a month early. The fears she’d felt only seconds earlier disappeared amid the glow of an improbable reunion, created by a simple twist of fate.

"Amazing," Maier reflected.

“How unbelievable that I would run into her on that day, at that moment,” Carla added. “When I saw her, it made me feel like everything was going to be okay.”

And, indeed, it was. On Monday, Carla gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl named Isabelle. Kristin, of course, couldn’t wait to visit her former patient and infant daughter – two lives reconnected by a new one on just another day inside All Children’s.


Child Life Director Kristin Maier, day old Isabelle and new mom Carla Householder.

Monday, December 23, 2013

10 Stories About People, Places and Things That Helped Make All Children's Special in 2013

As 2013 rolls to a close, this seems like a perfect time to reflect on the individuals, programs and events that helped make All Children’s special throughout the year.

Those stories are told on a regular basis in the feature known as “Faces and Places,” giving ACH employees and the general public a closer look at uplifting aspects of hospital life. Some unfolded in the spotlight in 2013; others took place in less visible corners of the hospital or, in one case, bubbled up from the pages of history with a little-known link to a baseball immortal.

But the common denominator is that all underscored the caring spirit of All Children’s – from  the doctors, nurses and staff inside the building to the compassion of the people on the outside, moved to lend a helping hand in an array of powerful ways.

We rang out 2012 with a New Year’s Eve story about a remarkable baby named Sammy Carden, who earned the nickname “Nails” for the toughness he displayed as ACH Heart Institute doctors saved his life during a harrowing surgery.

While still in his mother’s womb, Sammy was diagnosed at ACH with an extremely rare condition: single ventricle with criss-cross atrioventricular connections. Rosie and Craig had no idea what the problem was when they made an appointment to speak with All Children’s cardiologist Kathryn Nardell, M.D. in 2012, reeling from the crushing recommendation by doctors not affiliated with All Children’s that the pregnancy be terminated.

Sammy today at 18 months
But Dr. Nardell spent four hours with the Cardens, reviewing echocardiogram images and drawing pictures of Sammy’s heart and anticipated surgeries. Rosie remembers saying, 'Just give it to me straight: We're going to be prepared and if his quality of life is such that he can't be here, then he can't be here. But I need you to tell me.' And she said, 'We can fix it.' “

That they did in a series of operations performed by Dr. Jeffrey Jacobs and Dr. James Quintessenza, including one to kick off the New Year on Jan. 3, 2013. Sammy came through with flying colors. And, with his G-Tube now removed, he’s become a thriving little boy.

“Sammy is an eating monster,” Rosie said. “He’s running around like a champion and talking, and is really, truly the happiest child I’ve ever met. We’ve been so fortunate.”

So have countless others who have been helped in some manner by the hospital. This year, that included more visits than ever from the Tampa Bay Rays, who signed a sponsorship agreement with ACH. Rookie pitcher Chris Archer even showed up twice on his own (even on the morning of a playoff game), while Bucs rookies made their traditional tour and there was even a surprise drop-in by “Special K” of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Here’s a look at 10 stories, in chronological order, that shine a light on the heart of All Children’s.



Jan. 10
Spiderman at ACHSpider-Man Thrills Patients and Washes a Few Windows
The crew from High Rise Window Cleaning in Clearwater provided patients with a thrill when they showed up to wash windows dressed as Spidey. The unusual sight had kids and parents turning their heads – and even made a splash on the NBC Nightly News.







April 1

Julia Ruth Stevens & Babe RuthThe Hospital That Babe Ruth Helped Build

The Sultan of Swat had a well-known soft spot for kids in need, having spent his childhood in a Baltimore orphanage. And back when his New York Yankees spent spring training in St. Petersburg, the Babe made a generous donation to help build the hospital that would one day become All Children’s. The story came to our attention this past spring, and we talked to Ruth's granddaughter, 96-year-old Julia Stevens, about her father’s kind gesture.





April 16

Dr. Allison Messina and Dr. Gregory HaleA Hair "Razing" Experience for a Good Cause

A pair of All Children’s doctors – Gregory Hale, M.D. and Allison Messina, M.D. – parted with their locks one evening with members of the Tampa Bay Lightning to help raise funds to help fight pediatric cancer. The event created a big buzz indeed for pediatric cancer awareness.







May 1

Dr. Paul ColombaniDr. Colombani: A New Hand That Shapes ACH Leadership, An Old Hand That Saved a U.S. President

As a senior resident at George Washington Hospital in 1981, Dr. Paul Colombani found himself thrown into currents of history – playing a vital role in helping save the then-president Ronald Reagan as he clung to life following an assassination attempt. Now his leadership as Chair of Pediatric Surgery helps guide All Children’s.





June 4

Kelly TyrrellMusic Therapist Kelly Tyrrell Brings a Tuneful Healing Touch to ACH Patients

With a wide array of instruments, songs and techniques, Kelly Tyrrell helps patients of all ages – from newborns to late teens – get through hard times with a finely tuned approach to healing through music.






Sept. 10

Jackie Sayegh Duggan: A Life Tragically Taken on 9/11 Enhances Young Lives at All Children’s

The Sayegh Family of New York was devastated by the tragic loss of daughter/sister Jackie Sayegh Duggan in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. But her loving spirit lives on in a multiple ways at All Children’s, thanks to a donation in her family made by the family after putting down roots in St. Petersburg recently.






Sept. 18

Welcome Guests Greet Patients in All Children's Rooms: Towel Animals

The housekeeping staff of All Children’s has been lifting spirits of patients in a unique manner: by mastering the fine art of creating towel animals, and putting them in hospital rooms to brighten the day for children and parents.







Oct. 16

All Children's Homecoming Dance Has All the Right Moves For Kids, Families and Friends

It was a night to remember for patients – a gala homecoming dance that allowed them to leave behind their pain and uncertainty and just be kids for a change. The event, masterminded by the Child Life Department, drew massive support from vendors in the community to create a magical evening.




Nov. 22

Anthony Napolitano, M.D. – A Leader Who Knows the Heartbeat of All Children’s Hospital

He played a key role in the growth of All Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit and continues to shape ACH’s course as Chair of the Department of Pediatric Medicine. The journey started for Dr. Napolitano as a New Jersey teen, growing up in a family of first-responders.


Dec. 10

Beads of Courage: A Program that Chronicles the Bravery of Patients Comes to All Children's

A unique, worldwide program has come to All Children’s, giving kids a tangible way to “tell” the story of what they’ve endured so courageously. It’s a hit with patients, families and staff alike.