Any injury or illness that sends a family to the emergency room (ER) with a child is scary enough, but what they encounter inside can add to the anxiety.
“We have a wide variety of patients come through our doors in need of help – from those who are suffering from serious illness, injured in accidents, victims of violence or suffering from the complications of mental health disorders or substance abuse,” said Dr. Mark Griesemer, ER medical director at Mercy Hospital Springfield. “It can be scary and overwhelming for a child, especially when they have their own health concern.”
Soon, local kids will have their own emergency room, dedicated to serving them and staffed with pediatric specialists. Mercy Kids patients joined in a ceremonial dirt turn to break ground on the $7.5 million, 6,300-square-foot Mercy Kids Emergency Room. The Most Reverend Edward M. Rice, the seventh Bishop of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Diocese, presided over the blessing. When complete in early 2021, the new ER will give kids and their families a child-friendly space, including a separate triage area and waiting room.
“This ER will be heaven sent,” said Brian Hayes, whose son, Brian, Jr., participated in the groundbreaking and has a disorder that causes severe bone pain. “It’s the most gut-wrenching thing to see your child in pain and not be able to do anything about it. It’s imperative to see a specialist who can help resolve the issue quickly.”
The project is possible thanks entirely to the generosity of donors. In 2018, the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation Inc., of Tulsa, Oklahoma, pledged $1.5 million to Mercy Kids in Springfield if the community could raise $2.8 million. A number of generous gifts combined to hit that mark and surpass it to pay for the project.
“This is an example of the blessings that can come from a lot of people working together with our children’s health in mind,” said Renee Paulsell, vice president of Mercy Health Foundation Springfield. “This addition will be built with love, because it comes from so many with generous hearts.”
When it’s complete, children will feel the difference. “This space is designed to be as comforting and low-key as possible,” said Dr. John Burson, Mercy pediatrician and vice president of Mercy Kids. “We see kids who have everything from traumatic brain injuries to burns and broken bones. That’s scary - so giving them their own, peaceful area will help.”
The new Mercy Kids ER will be added onto the front entrance of the existing ER, along National Street in Springfield. It will add 11 exam rooms, with two specially-designed rooms for children who come in with mental health needs. Another feature is the “sensory room.”
“We’ve designed that room with soothing sounds and colors to keep kids calm,” said Aaron Carlson, vice president of Mercy Kids. “We think that will be particularly beneficial for children who have conditions like autism or anxiety.”
Mercy Kids in Springfield has the largest array of pediatric subspecialists in the region, including everything from pediatric neurosurgery to hematology and oncology, endocrinology and much more. “The Mercy Kids ER will be another open door to quickly get that specialty care to children in our community,” Dr. Burson said. “We’ve seen how miraculously children can recover when they receive the proper care right away. We can’t wait to see how many more kids will benefit.”
Mercy Health Foundation Springfield continues to raise funds to finish other Mercy Kids projects, including an upgraded pediatric intensive care unit. If you’re interested in donating, please call 417-820-6111.