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Alyssia Rodriguez, survivor: When she was only six weeks old, Alyssia was admitted to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital with a life-threatening condition. One hundred days went by until she was released. Now an active, healthy eight year old, Alyssia does not remember her struggle to survive, but her parents do.
One Hundred Days
It was a hundred days Tara and Mauricio Rodriguez can never forget. Their six-week-old infant daughter Alyssia began to have difficulty breathing. After an emergency visit to her pediatrician, the first-time mother was immediately directed to the Pediatric Emergency Department at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC). With her oxygen saturation levels dangerously low, Alyssia was admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) at the Children’s Hospital. She wouldn’t return home for more than three long months.
“It was extremely frightening, particularly since I was a first-time mom,” said Tara. “I was in shock; I just didn’t know what to think. But the nurses and doctors were all open and honest. They explained everything they were doing and made me feel like they were going to take care of her. But when they said they were going to put my baby into a coma; that was hard to hear.”
After being admitted to the PICU, Alyssia’s condition continued to deteriorate rapidly into pneumonia. Within 24 hours she was placed on a ventilator, and in time there was deep concern that she might never again breathe without assistance. Over the course of the next hundred days baby Alyssia would endure numerous viral infections and other illnesses due to her weakened immune system.
For Tara, the days passed in a haze of vigils, long hours of talking and touching amid a tangle of tubes and leads, punctuated by terrifying moments when alarms brought teams of urgent professionals undertaking extreme measures to save her child.
“I stayed at the hospital with Alyssia…they found a bed for me so I could spend as much time as possible with her,” said Tara. “Child Life Specialists even recorded my voice so they could play it back to her when I was sleeping. It wasn’t ever like I was a bother…they wanted me to be with my baby…to spend as much time with her as possible.” She stopped briefly, then continued quietly. “We had her baptized in the hospital because we didn’t know how much time we were going to have.”
But Alyssia fought back against the odds. In time, and with the efforts of intensivists, pulmonologists, radiologists, infectious disease specialists, PICU and pediatric nurses, respiratory therapists and others, she grew strong enough to be removed from the ventilator. After three months in the PICU and other units at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at HUMC, Alyssia would finally return home.
It has been eight years since Alyssia’s long and early fight for life. Although her ordeal required some special therapy and medical attention since, she has grown to become a happy and healthy girl with a love for all things artistic. Alyssia dreams about going to Europe one day and seeing all of the beautiful art that her father teaches her about. She enjoys painting and drawing and has many journals that she carries around with her to capture her experiences. Alyssia returns to the Children’s Hospital often enough to see some of the same people who once fought to save her life. She cannot, of course, remember — but her family does.
“The doctors and nurses…it wasn’t only their professionalism and how much they obviously cared about Alyssia,” said her mother, Tara. “They became our family for three months, and a lot of the people at the Children’s Hospital still are. They called her a miracle baby…but they helped deliver a miracle for us.”
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A Special Place for Making Children Better
Many of the services provided at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital are located in the Sarkis and Siran Gabrellian Women’s & Children’s Pavilion, one of America’s first environmentally responsible, sustainable healthcare facilities. Opened in 2006, the Pavilion is green in many ways and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified, generating energy savings and recycling and renewing resources while providing the highest quality compassionate care for children.
Because Children Are Not Small Adults
Backed by a dedicated and specially trained staff of physicians, psychologists, nurses and volunteers, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital offers a comprehensive range of services, including the latest in specialized pediatric medical equipment and a highly skilled medical and Magnet Award-winning nursing staff.
Here are just a few of the highlights:
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Located next to the labor and delivery rooms in the Women’s & Children’s Pavilion, our 40 bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit provides “family-centered care” in a soothing environment for high-risk and acutely ill newborns. Each year more than 6,000 infants are born at HUMC, and for those with special needs we provide the specialized technology and attention so important to getting their lives off to a good start.
Pediatric Emergency Department
Our Pediatric Emergency Department which is specifically tailored for children from birth to 22 years has grown rapidly in just a few years, serving more than 35,000 last year. We were the first 24/7 pediatric emergency department in Bergen County, NJ with a team of physicians and nurses who are Board Certified in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. They along with social workers and child life specialists are trained to treat children with injuries or acute and chronic illnesses.
The Pediatric Rheumatology Department at the JMSCH is one of the largest and most well regarded in the country. This department was the first pediatric rheumatology program in the state of New Jersey. Their cutting edge research is at the forefront of treating the entire range of rheumatologic diseases. Physicians in our Rheumatology Department are conducting research and clinical trials in areas such as new and developing therapeutics for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis and childhood Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, the development of safety surveillance registries for biologic agents, new methods of evaluating and treating localized scleroderma, and comparative effectiveness of medications for various pediatric rheumatic diseases.
Cancer and Blood Disorder Services
There is hope for children with cancer. Since its establishment in 1987, the Tomorrows Children’s Institute has become New Jersey’s premier outpatient pediatric center for diagnosing, treating and managing cancer and serious blood disorders. And as a national leader in clinical research, the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and its comprehensive team of oncologists, nurses, radiologists, psychologists, social workers, child life specialists and bone marrow/peripheral blood stem cell transplant specialists provides a wealth of inpatient and outpatient services to help children get better.
A Place of Hope and Healing
We at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital are committed to living up to that standard by providing the very best healthcare to children and their families. We thank you for your support in making this possible.