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At home in the hospital

Geraldine Haldner

But the environment in which she will give birth is surprise enough for now, she said, as the glowing 31-year-old Slifer, Smith & Frampton employee enters her third trimester – the final sprint to impending motherhood.”Oh wow,” she exclaimed during a recent, unofficial preview of the Vail Valley Medical Center’s newest addition – a $7 million Woman and Children’s Center, dedicated to making giving birth a homey, as well as medically state-of-art, experience.Mays, whose belly is nicely rounded and whose pregnancy has been “very easy and uneventful” so far, was wowing at one of the giant whirlpool bathtubs in one of the seven fully-private labor-delivery-post-partum rooms on new obstetrics floor.”This is beautiful,” she said, viewing a room, kept in subtle green hues, that resembles nothing of those sterile, fluorescent-lit rooms women usually associate with labor.”I don’t really like hospitals; this is like a hotel,” she said, giving a new state-of-the art rocking chair a test sit in front of a wall-to-wall window with sweeping views of Vail Mountain.”This needs to be broken in a bit,” she said with a smile before being told the rocker is made that way to aid healing of C-section incisions while still giving a newborn the comfort of rocking motions.Indeed, the room is a study in technological niftiness and visual comforts, even as construction workers in hard hats clear out the last of construction debris after 12-months of construction. There is a 27-inch television, storage for clothes and personal affects, a “family area” complete with a pull-out couch and table, and art work hiding things like electrical outlets.More importantly, the rooms – kept in hues of burnished barn-red, soothing blue and a softly-faded green – are full-fledged delivery rooms, brimming with wires, hook-ups, fetal monitors and all the essentials needed to ensure a safe birth.Only the ugly and sometime unsettling beeping monitors, tubes and lights are hidden in tasteful cherry-wood trimmed armoires and cabinets – out of sight for piece of mind, or pulled out, lowered from the ceiling or rolled out in a flash, if a mother or child needs modern medicine’s monitoring gadgets.The theme continues in the new wing’s four patient rooms, used for post-birth procedures or for moms who stay with babies who suffer from complications.A large waiting room with comfortable furniture and toys beckons extended family members to relax in browns and bronze tones – a far cry from the green vinyl-bench next to the snack machine in a hallway full of medical equipment and running nurses.An open nurses station and entrance to the center spell out tranquility in yellows, beiges and blues.”We wanted to bring a feeling of a spa with the wood tones and the subtle textures to help define that feeling of quiet comfort, instead of promoting high anxiety,” said Margie Snow of Gullan Snow & Associates, a Denver-based design firm specializing in interior decorations for medical and corporate facilities.In a 12-month process, Snow said, the hospital staff and the design team, at the direction of Christie Philopoulos, came up with a concept that “got a little bit daring, going towards the residential feel and staying far away from the typical hospital look of pinks and blues, coming up with something more sophisticated.”The colors and textures, from wood-like floor coverings to art pieces, were selected “to create a real sensual effect of texture and subtle colors and harmony,” Snow said. “Giving birth is not cheap, and a lot of expectant mothers nowadays consider coming down to Denver to get the quality of care and luxury of space. Our goal was to create a facility that can compete with that.”Mary McClure, VVMC’s chief registered nurse of obstetrics, has no doubts this new wing will be loved by anyone in it – mothers, family, doctors and nurses.”The philosophy is to be a family-care facility,” said McClure. “Our aim is to take care not only of the mom and the baby, but the brother, the sister the dad.”McClure, who has worked in nursing for 20 years, is in awe herself while walking the new wing at a nurse-typical brisk pace.”We think we’ve died and gone to heaven,” she said, demonstrating the many hidden wonders that seem to be part of each aspect of the birthing center.”This is built based on the family that essentially wants a home birth,” she said, showing off the nursery, a bright, friendly room with a large viewing window and fronted by a nurses’ station, to ensure security.”At the same time we have the safety and security of a hospital,” she explained.The open nurses station and an isolation room just off the nursery – along with an interconnected operating room dedicated to C-sections – make the facility a place “that the staff, the client and the physician are going to be very happy in,” she said, pointing out that a nurse assigned to care for a sickly baby “won’t feel so isolated.” At the same time, the nurse can work in an area that is completely sterile. The nursery, meanwhile, will accommodate babies of any status based on where they are placed in the nursery.New locker rooms, equipped with a fetal monitoring station, will allow nurses to relax in a no-nonsense but comfortable lounge away from clients – while still on alert for when emergencies arise.Most importantly, the new wing won’t just ensure a family’s peace of mind, it will allow the hospital to upgrade the level of care it can give.For example, instead of sending between two and 12 babies a month to Denver because of early delivery, low birth weight or other complications, McClure said, the new center will be able to keep more babies in Vail. After all, births here have doubled over the last 10 years, to as many as 300 births per year, said to VVMC spokeswoman Deb Schalm.VVMC’s 14,000-square-foot new Women and Children’s Center will open Sunday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours from 9 a.m. to noon.Anyone registering for a tour will have a chance to win a $1,000 savings bond, donated by WestStar Bank.Mays who said she isn’t nervous yet – but will likely be a “bit anxious” when her due date draws nearer – looks forward to her temporary new home away from home during the hours of delivery.”This is so relaxing. I’d like to hang around this place for a while,” she said, giving the rocking chair another nudge.Vail Valley Surgical Center to offer wide variety of servicesAnother new, $7 million addition to the Vail Valley Medical Center is soon to make Vail a destination for more than skiing.Some people may come just to get their injured knees fixed, ailing back relieved, sagging buttocks tucked or infected tonsils removed.The completely free-standing, yet integrated Vail Valley Surgical Center – slated to open in concert with the hospital’s new Women and Children’s Center, a subsidiary of the Steadman Hawkins Medical Center – will accommodate just about any out-patient surgical procedure.The for-profit addition to the Vail hospital campus features three operating rooms, filled floor-to-ceiling with state-of-the art equipment to efficiently operate and communicate worldwide and even document every move to healing.For review and education – or perhaps just to take home – a DVD disc can me made of each procedure. High-speed Internet access, two-way video conferencing and other communication tools of the newest generation allow doctors to consult with other doctors or experts, regardless of their location.Three new operating room also feature the latest and greatest medical equipment in terms of technology. Bob Patton, administrator of the new facility, says it will allow VVMC to carry out as many as 12,000 surgical procedures per year – though only about 3,000 are expected the first year.The surgical center is fronted by a private check-in area, allowing patients to go under the knife far from the hustle and bustle of the hospital.”They’ll duck in here, get checked in, operated on and are on their way,” says Patton.Privacy and efficiency will attract those looking to guard their anonymity – celebrities of any kind, but efficiency and state-of- the art equipment will attract patients of any economic background, says Dr. Jim Silliman, CEO of the new center and a member of the Steadman Hawkins Medical Center Foundation.”Some of these patients will be special personalities,” says “Mr. Doctor” – code for an administrative doctor who has been practising medicine for two decades – while standing in a spotless, gleaming operation room. “Some will be soccer players, whose agents hover either here or via the communication links. But the great majority will be ski bums, normal people. We care for all-comers.”The isolated setting near the hospital is advantageous in one major way, Patton says: Patients under the knife, in the event of an unforeseen emergency, can be transferred to the intensive care unit of the hospital.”I don’t think any other town of Vail’s size has a medical facility like this one,” says Silliman.”There are no wires and cables to trip over,” says the orthopedic surgeon, who has been performing surgical procedures for the past 15 years. “This is unbelievable technology in an amazing environment.”


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