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'Dream come true' Doctors excited about new children's hospital

By Joanie Morris

Kannapolis Citizen

CONCORD — For doctors Linny Baker and David Hoover, treating Cabarrus County children has always been about the best service — no matter where they had to go to do it. Baker, a pediatrician, and Hoover, a pediatric surgeon, have cooperated together throughout the years on various cases.

They have also cooperated with doctors in other locations, such as pediatric oncologist Dr. Mark Mogul at Presbyterian Hospital.

While the facilities for Hoover and Baker have always been in Cabarrus County — patient procedure rooms and surgery centers — now, instead of sending the youngest patients elsewhere for specialized treatment, those patients can be treated right here in Cabarrus County at the Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital.

Baker has been waiting a long time to see a children’s hospital in Cabarrus County. For him, it’s a dream come true.

“I think it’s the most wonderful thing to ever happen to this hospital in this county,” said Baker during the opening of the new children’s hospital on the campus of NorthEast Medical Center. “I never dreamed this would even be possible.”

Each hallway of the hospital is identifiable by a different animal — elephant, gazelle, lion and giraffe. The animals represent strength (elephant), determination (gazelle), courage (lion) and perseverance (giraffe). They are represented throughout the new hospital, from frosted glass photos to columns entering the hospital with likenesses of the animals and the words inscribed on them.

There are also other aspects of the new hospital that are different. In the pediatric intensive care unit, rather than wall-mounted equipment, all the equipment can hang from the ceiling, allowing doctors to rearrange the room any way they see fit. In the pediatric intensive care unit, there are sleep rooms available for family members, a shower and kitchenettes. All is designed to make sure parents don’t feel they need to leave their children at the hospital.

“This is going to enable us to do so much more for our children than even several years ago,” said Baker. Baker pointed out one patient in particular, Malachi Johnson, who had a Wilm’s Tumor. Johnson was diagnosed by Baker and operated on by Hoover, both at NorthEast Medical Center. For his chemotherapy, though, he had to go to Mogul in Charlotte.

“We have his oncologist on our staff here (now),” said Baker. If the new children’s hospital had been there when Johnson was diagnosed, “he could have received his treatment here.”

Baker said there’s no one place in the hospital that is his favorite.

“It’s hard to pick a place,” he added. He said if he had to pick, it would be the main entrance to the hospital. “It looks so child friendly. It gives you such a warm feeling.”

For Hoover, the children’s hospital makes life easier for everyone.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Hoover said. “Since I started my training, this is my sixth hospital I’ve been in. This is by far the nicest.”

Hoover has worked in children’s hospitals in Greenville, N.C., Chicago and Charlotte.

“When families have their children here, they will come away telling other people about the wonderful facilities we have and, more importantly, the care we have,” Hoover said.

Already, he’s seeing patients from Salisbury, Albemarle and north Mecklenburg.

“As word gets out, more people will choose to come here,” Hoover said.

By having a children’s hospital in Cabarrus County, officials at NorthEast Medical Center hope to ease the stress that families will feel when their children are being treated for illness.

“Anything that can decrease the stress on the families” is something he likes, Hoover said.

And while NorthEast has a new children’s hospital, that’s not all. New staff comes in almost daily, Hoover said. In February, there will be a new pediatric neurologist, and in another seven months, a new pediatric surgeon.

“We will continue to increase the level of care so these children around the area can come here,” Hoover said.

One of his favorite things about the hospital is the level of care the children can receive while still being close to home. There are several people on staff with sub-specialties that are “very well respected in the pediatric world,” Hoover said.

“(It has) a small town feel, but lots of high quality sub-specialists,” Hoover said. “That small town feel enables us to give that touch patients long for and miss when they’re involved in those large university centers. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@kannapoliscitizen.com.

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