Having a sick child is a scary and stressful experience. As a mom of four, I have seen a lot of different illnesses and respiratory symptoms frighten me the most.
I recently toured the Respirology Clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital. From the moment you walk into Comer Children’s Hospital, you are met with bright, friendly sights and helpful faces who are diligently working to minimize your family’s stress and fear. One of those people is Dr. Louise Giles. Dr. Giles is the medical director for pediatric respiratory therapy and a local expert on respiratory diseases in children. I am an asthmatic myself and I have two children who have had respiratory issues. My daughter grew out of her asthma around age five, before she received an official diagnosis, and my son is currently dealing with hyper-reactive airways. So, I unfortunately am familiar with children’s respiratory illnesses and all of the related equipment and procedures.
Throughout our visit, Dr. Giles emphasized the importance she places on open and easy communication with parents. Both she and her staff go out of the way to make sure both parents and patients are comfortable and their needs are met. And, because many respiratory patients have underlying issues – such as prematurity, allergies, or other more serious diseases – the doctors and staff work with families to form a cohesive plan to take the best possible care of children.
This multispecialty care goes beyond just consulting on cases over the phone. The staff at Comer Children’s Hospital works to schedule all visits on the same day. A patient will be brought into a clinic room and that is their room for the whole visit. Doctors and nurses from the different departments will come to see them in their room, if previously arranged. Furthermore, each room is fully equipped with a scale, machines for vitals and oxygen monitoring. They even provide oxygen so that the portable oxygen tanks are not depleted during the clinic visit. As a mom with a toddler, who generally brings more than one child to a visit, it is a welcome relief to not have to move from room to room, especially in the winter months when you are loaded down with strollers, coats, diaper bags, etc.
Advanced Clinical Care and Patient Education
Comer Children’s Hospital is an academic medical center, which means that they provide patients with the best and most recent developments in care. All of these advancements are used to make things easier on the patients and provide results faster.
Spirometry is a basic test of lung function. It measures lung capacity and is done by taking a deep inhale and forcefully exhaling. It is something done at every visit to the Respirology Clinic on children old enough to do this test. I know through experience that this is a hard concept to teach to young children. Comer Children’s Hospital has a computerized version with an interactive screen. Children are asked to blow out the candles on a cake that they see on the screen. According to Dr. Giles, even children as young as four can start to use this feature and understand the concept, which allows their doctors to better monitor, diagnose and treat their asthma.
Every visit also includes education for both parents and children. Doctors not only discuss the environmental factors that may be causing or exacerbating the patient’s illness, such as smoking, but they also make sure patients are using their inhalers and taking their medication correctly. According to Dr. Giles, current research shows that if treatments are started right away and executed correctly, the physical changes to the respiratory system that is seen in asthmatics – inflammation and narrowing of the airways – can be stopped and in some cases, reversed.
The Benefits of a Leading Research Institution
Another advantage of an academic medical center is that education and research are a major component of the care and experience. The Respirology Clinic is part of the National Institutes of Health’s AsthmaNet (a nationwide clinical research network) and is actively participating in several studies. One is looking at children ages 15 and up to see if there is a genetic component to asthma. Another study aims to see if starting treatments and medicine in the ER, as opposed to treating them and sending patients to the clinic for follow up, will yield better long-term healing.
They are also very excited about a new project for which they are in the process of getting funding. It’s a study on improving asthma care in lower socioeconomic populations where there is an above average rate of diagnosis. Given Comer’s location on Chicago’s South Side, doctors see this trend every day and a study like this will have a direct positive impact on their surrounding area.
From the bright and sunny offices to the friendly staff you meet from the moment you walk in the door, Comer Children’s Hospital is providing excellent care to the families and children of Chicago and beyond.