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updated: 6/4/2012 5:03 PM

Chicago children's hospital holds ribbon-cutting

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Associated Press

Children played a significant role in Monday's ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $855 million Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago just as they helped with the 23-story hospital's design. A patient advisory board contributed ideas such as a CT scanner painted to look like a yellow submarine and an outdoor garden so children on chemotherapy can escape from medicine smells and breathe fresh air.

A near life-size sculpture of a humpback whale and baby hang in the lobby, donated by Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, among the many pieces of art donated by the city's cultural institutions. There's also a wheelchair-accessible, scaled-down fire truck to play on. Elevators have interactive art, including drawings of cars with buttons to push to make the horns honk.

The scientific edge for the new facility comes with its strategic location on the campus of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and connected to Northwestern's Prentice Women's Hospital. The new site will help the hospital build its relationship with the medical school and retain pediatric specialists.

The hard work of moving from the current location in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood to a spot near the city's high-end Michigan Avenue shopping district begins Saturday at 6 a.m. That's when hospital staff members plan to use more than 20 ambulances to move about 160 patients from the hospital's old quarters about three miles away.

Patient care experts have been planning the move for years, conducting monthly exercises to make sure each child gets the right care in transit. Patients to be moved include about 37 sick babies in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, said Sherri Ewing, associate chief nurse executive. Each of the sickest patients will require about 90 minutes to move, Ewing said.

"We'll all breathe easy when everyone's tucked in safely in their bed at night knowing that they'll get the best care possible that we can provide to them," the new hospital's CEO, Patrick Magoon, said during Monday's dedication.

With confetti flying over a crowd of 700 in the closed-off street in front of the hospital Monday, former and current patients waved from a balcony. The festivities featured children among the speakers, including 13-year-old cancer survivor Jam Ransom-Marks, who told how she and other patients helped give advice to create "kid-friendly" spaces in the new hospital.

"We were even able to share our stories with construction workers when we led them in bend-and-stretch exercises," Ransom-Marks said. The exercise sessions for the workers who built the hospital were coached by young patients.

Named for a Chicago philanthropist who is both a grateful mother and a former nurse, Lurie Children's replaces Children's Memorial Hospital. Major benefactor Ann Lurie's $100 million gift in 2007 was believed at the time to be the largest amount given by an individual to a children's hospital in the United States. Her late husband, Robert H. Lurie, was a business partner of real estate investor Sam Zell and a part owner of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox.

Shortly after Robert Lurie's death from cancer in 1990, Children's Memorial saved the couple's teenage son from dying of salmonella poisoning.

Ann Lurie spoke at Monday's ceremony, devoting her remarks to quotes from an email she received from Children's Memorial patient Kendall Ciesemier, now a student at Georgetown University.

"'I am so unbelievably thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this project as the hospital has been a second home to me since I was 4. ... It's an incredible hospital. Incredible," Lurie read from Ciesemier's email. "'It's actually kind of a shame that you have to be sick to experience this facility. Sick kids certainly deserve this place to heal."'

Children's Memorial held a closing reception for bereaved families Sunday, which included the dedication of a red jewel crabtree that will be planted in a nearby park. A plaque near the tree will celebrate the lives of the children cared for by Children's Memorial for 130 years.

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