Tour Le Bonheur to see the heart of the city

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

June 5, 2014

Le Bonheur

Tour Le Bonheur to see the heart of the city

I spent a recent morning taking the Le Bonheur 101 Tour. My group of eight was given breakfast, lunch and guided access to the children’s hospital.

In the 40-bed emergency room, relatively quiet at 9 a.m., Dr. Barry Gilmore, medical director of emergency services, assured us that it would fill up multiple times over the course of the day. Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is the only nationally certified Level 1 Trauma Center in the state.

We were shown operating rooms with equipment costing millions. Dr. James Eubanks, medical director of trauma services, demonstrated computers so technologically advanced that I was sure we could launch a moon mission from the corner of Dunlap and Poplar.

In the cath lab, a days-old baby underwent a procedure as we looked on from a control booth where nurses monitored every action, giving feedback to the physician and his team while tapping a keyboard the way my teen does his phone.

And mixed in and among the gadgetry, the LED lights and a seemingly endless nervous system of fiber optic wire, was another complex, yet simple, piece of equipment. So important is it to the patients and their families, the doctors and nurses, that, when the new building was completed in 2010, they capped it off with its image.

It is the heart.

A big part of Le Bonheur’s philosophy on treatment of the body is the support that is offered to patients and their families; there is talking, physical and emotional interaction, and bonding.

The doctors and nurses, department heads and marketing team each took time from their day to explain to us every floor, ward and piece of equipment. They answered our questions unhurried and at length. They even took time to point out the art on the walls and explain its significance and what it means to them. There is beautiful art everywhere, made by and for children, and it appears as integral to the day-to-day functioning of the institution as an MRI or EKG.

I toured the hallways, operating rooms and waiting rooms of Le Bonheur the other day and, as thankful as I am that it’s there, I hope I never have to see it again.

At the beginning of the tour, we were asked to share our own Le Bonheur stories. A few of us had them. For me, it happened about 14 years ago when my son, then only 2 years old, stood up in his high chair at Pete & Sam’s restaurant and went over backward, landing on his head. As a parent and Memphian, when something like that happens, the first thing that comes to mind is “Le Bonheur.” He was examined and released soon after we arrived.

Other stories aren’t so simple and don’t end as quickly. We heard some of those stories during our tour, saw others being played out in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and operating rooms. It’s for those children and those parents that I’m grateful for the institution.

June 15 marks the 62nd anniversary of Le Bonheur opening its doors, and the 4th anniversary for the new facility. You’ve toured Graceland and Sun Studio, the Stax Museum and Brooks Art Gallery, and they all make Memphis the unique city it is. If you want to see what makes us great, what makes our heart beat, be sure and take the Le Bonheur 101 Tour.

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