Minnesota Mom Shares How Every Patient Story Matters
Speak Now for Kids is featuring a series of first person accounts from family members attending the 2014 Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, June 24 and 25. First in our series is the story of the Christiansen family whose daughter was hospitalized with croup which developed into secondary pneumonia. The family plans to meet with legislators, encouraging them to vote in favor of legislation that benefits the Children Hospital Graduate Medical Education program.
In January 2010, Eleanor Christiansen and her husband Tyler got an unexpected crash course in hospital life. Their usually healthy daughter, Greta, developed croup and landed in the emergency department of the Minneapolis campus of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
As her croup progressed to secondary pneumonia, her ventilator was exchanged for an ECMO machine, which keeps the body supplied with blood and oxygen when a patient’s heart and lungs malfunction. Greta’s emergency visit became a nearly month-long stay in the hospital, with two-and-a-half weeks in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
“Had she been somewhere else in the state, somewhere else in the country, there was a really good chance we would have lost our child,” Eleanor Christiansen says. “We have a well of gratitude to tap that will probably never run out.”
Christiansen is about to begin her fourth year on the hospital’s Family Advisory Council and first as its chair, showing her gratitude in a big way. The council comprises families whose children are past or current patients at the children’s hospital. The group meets once a month, 10 months of the year, for two hours per meeting.
Its members draw from their own experiences to make the hospital experience even better for other families. The council recently created a resource guide for families. They’re currently working on a project to help families access the hospital more easily, especially with those who have special needs and medical equipment.
“We provide a voice that nobody at the hospital can provide and we can be a real powerhouse of change,” Christiansen says.
Every member’s experience — the good and the bad — is important to the council, Christiansen says. And every story is important, too.
A version of the Christiansen's story originally appeared on the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota blog.