Adelaide children’s hospital celebrates 140 years helping kids like Enzo

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Adelaide 5000
(Supplied: State Library of SA ref B10696) ABC Radio Adelaide

By Malcolm Sutton

Updated

June 20, 2018 15:38:59

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The original Sir Samuel Way Adelaide Children’s Hospital was demolished in 1967.
(Website: Teamenzoprogeria.com)
That first building was demolished in 1967 yet the hospital today is as busy as ever.It provides a specialist facility for services in paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, neonatology, surgery, mental health and disability, rehabilitation and allied health.ABC Radio Adelaide’s Breakfast presenter Ali Clarke today broadcast live from the hospital’s foyer, where she caught up with some of the thousands of families and children who make use of the services each year.This included Catherina Llontop and her six-year-old son Enzo, who suffers from the rare genetic disorder progeria, the symptoms of which cause accelerate ageing.”It was hard to find out why at six months old he lost weight and his skin was different,” Ms Llontop said.”When he was one year old we were referred to the genetics department.”Enzo was eventually diagnosed with progeria, just one of three people with the disease in Australia, and the country’s only child.”It’s very rare and I think it was a challenge because he was always happy, cheeky, and so it was very hard to find out what was wrong with him,” Ms Llontop said. It was South Australia’s undesirable status of having the country’s highest infant mortality rate — about 180 deaths per 1,000 live births — that prompted the building of the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital.Today it is celebrating its 140th birthday.The foundation stone for what was originally called the Adelaide Children’s Hospital was laid on June 20, 1878, much to the dismay of several high-society residents at the time who believed it would disseminate disease.They were among 200 North Adelaide residents who signed a petition objecting to the hospital “for obvious reasons, and that it would necessarily not only interfere with the enjoyment of the property of the citizens residing in the vicinity but that it would be prejudicial to health also”. Photo:
Sandy Keane shows Ali Clarke her trolley of donated toys for children. (ABC Radio Adelaide: Kathryn Jenson)
Much of it is organised by children’s entertainment and special events coordinator Sandy Keane, who has been working at the hospital for 22 years.Her job includes organising dress-up days for the hospital, such as May the 4th when staff dress as Star Wars characters — an event supported by Disney and Lucasfilm.”They [children] absolutely love it,” Ms Keane said, revealing a trolley full of toys donated by the public that she described as “the tools of my trade”.”We’ve got this big boardroom that we turn into a Santa’s cave and it allows donors to come into that area and donate presents, so that’s our major time of the year we receive a lot of presents.”We’ve got a present cupboard where we put the surplus, so any child who has a birthday in the hospital receives a present, but we also use the presents for children who are having a bad time, or we just use them as reward presents.”Big changes over 140 yearsFormer chief executive Jim Birch said some of the biggest changes the hospital had experienced in 140 years included reducing restrictions on visiting hours in the early 1980s.In 1955, for example, parents could only visit children staying in the hospital for two days a week. Photo:
The original foundation stone from the Sir Samuel Way building. Mr Birch is also the chairperson for a taskforce examining options for the hospital’s move to a site at the New Royal Adelaide Hospital by 2024.Current chief executive Lindsey Gough said hospital staff were “besides themselves” with excitement about the planned move.”They’re happy they’re going to a new facility, so it’s just about keeping everyone safe, and the quality service going until we move,” she said.In the meantime, the hospital will continue to provide a safe haven for children like Enzo, who gives familiar staff a high-five as he enters the building.Ms Llontop applauded the support they had received from hospital staff.”They do a really good job.” Photo:
Enzo visits the Women’s and Children’s Hospital about once a month. External Link:

Facebook live with Ali and Enzo
Children helped to feel as happy as possibleLike all the children who present at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Enzo is made to feel welcome and as happy as possible — nurses paint their faces, Easter bunnies, Santas and clowns make visits, and musicians brighten the soundwaves. (ABC Radio Adelaide: Spence Denny)
He said its inpatients facilities used to be the largest part of the hospital, but due to improving technology it’s now one of the smallest as children spend less time staying overnight.Mr Birch also recalled the difficulties in deciding on the hospital’s name after the children’s hospital amalgamated with The Queen Victoria in 1989.A public competition resulted in suggestions like The Princess Diana Hospital for Children or even the Bluebird of Happiness Hospital, “which was a bit novel”.”In the end, we brought in a guy called Michael O’Reilly, a journalist at The Advertiser, and asked him what he thought we should call it,” Mr Birch said.”He said just call it what it is.”

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A concept image of the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital revealed by the former Labor government in 2013.