A new home for hearts
UF Health opens new pediatric cardiac intensive care unit
By Karen Thurston Chavez
Three-year-old Ginny Lee Haeseler made her first trip to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital when she was just two hours old. Born blue and struggling to breathe, the infant was sent by ambulance to UF Health, where she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Her parents would soon find out that their daughter had a condition known as transposition of the great arteries, a congenital heart defect in which the aorta and pulmonary artery are crisscrossed. UF Health Congenital Heart Center surgeons repaired the defect when Ginny was just 1 month old. But being a heart kid means she will require vigilant, specialized care throughout her life, as do all children born with congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect.
UF Health is home to one of the country’s leading centers for congenital heart defects, and now, it has the space to match. On Jan. 10, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital celebrated the grand opening of its pediatric cardiac intensive care unit. The unit’s transformation from administrative offices to advanced clinical space to provide highly specialized care to patients with congenital heart disease embodies UF Health’s commitment to create a family-focused children’s hospital.
“On the program for today’s event, this spot was listed simply as ‘grateful parent’; truer words have never been written,” Ginny’s father, Jason Haeseler, said at the grand opening ceremony. “Indeed, we are grateful for what everyone at UF Health and the Congenital Heart Center has done for our family, and for so many families like ours.”
Located on the 10th floor of the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, the 18,000-square-foot pediatric cardiac intensive care unit includes 23 private patient rooms, each with its own bathroom and shower. The rooms feature ceiling-mounted exam lights, ceiling-mounted patient-lifting systems, and a kid-friendly gaming station and television. Each room also has a nurse’s alcove in the corridor with monitoring systems for patient observation.
“We have done such a good job even in the current system,” said Mark Bleiweis, M.D., director and principal cardiothoracic surgeon for the UF Health Congenital Heart Center. “We are going to have more space, more beds and more access. It’s recognition of the great work by our team of physicians and nurses, and it speaks to UF Health’s commitment to taking care of kids with congenital heart disease.”
The new PCICU will double as a general pediatric intensive care unit until mid-spring while the current PICU undergoes renovation. Patients began moving into the new unit Jan. 15.
“We’re fulfilling our promise to expand outstanding pediatric care at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and make it even more accessible to the families who need us,” said Tim Goldfarb, UF Health Shands CEO. “We’re matching physical resources with the incredible human intellectual firepower and capital across the organization. We’re united and energized by a common focus and passion — our patients.”