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One year of emergency, trauma and inpatient care for kids in the Children’s Tower

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU celebrates the first anniversary of its new facility opening.

View of children’s hospital of richmond at vcu from street level with cars passing by The Children's Tower allows for improved availability of pediatric-specific operating rooms, imaging suites and trauma bays equipped with the latest technology. (Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU)

By Kate Marino

Today marks the first birthday of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s Children’s Tower. Patients moved from the pediatric floor of VCU Medical Center into the 16-story, completely kid-focused Children’s Tower on April 30, 2023.

“Building a comprehensive children’s hospital had been a top priority from the time that I arrived at VCU 15 years ago, and I am very proud of all the work by so many to make this dream for our children a reality,” VCU President Michael Rao said. “From the Children’s Hospital Foundation board to our donors, to our leadership and staff, intense and focused planning helped to make this one of the best and most modern pediatric hospitals in the country. Our teams have always provided excellent care, and this dedicated environment helps them meet the needs of our youngest patients.”

The Children’s Tower houses the pediatric acute and intensive care units and emergency room, along with the region’s only Level I pediatric trauma center. This includes 24/7 access to any pediatric specialist a child may need.

Caring for more children and families than ever before

In addition to the 72 all-private acute and intensive care rooms and 21 rooms in the emergency department, the tower allows for improved availability of pediatric-specific operating rooms, imaging suites and trauma bays equipped with the latest technology.

Since April 2023, the Children’s Tower has facilitated an increase of:

  • 40% in acute care admissions
  • 20% in emergency department visits
  • 16% in intensive care admissions
  • 25% in surgeries

“A year ago, we were elated to fulfill our promise of opening a full-service, comprehensive children’s hospital dedicated to providing families with nationally ranked care in an environment just for them,” CHoR president Elias Neujahr said. “In the past year, our teams have cared for more patients than previously possible in our ‘hospital within a hospital’ setting. This equates to thousands of families who were able to get the lifesaving and life-changing care they needed for their children.”

One of these families was the Piersons, whose then 3-year-old daughter Maddie moved on opening day into the pediatric bone marrow transplant unit of the Children’s Tower, developed for her and other children requiring specialized care due to weakened immune systems. Maddie was one of the first patients in the country to receive a targeted treatment which successfully eliminated her rare and challenging form of leukemia.

CJ Sears came to the Children’s Tower emergency department by way of a small community hospital following a fall in his sophomore physical education class. After orthopaedic surgery and an overnight stay, he returned home to continue healing.

Continued growth on the horizon

The Children’s Tower was built with an eye on the future. A dedicated cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology lab, the only of its kind in the region, will open this summer. Expansions to inpatient units, which have remained at or near capacity, are in the planning phases to meet demand.

Additional amenities are also in the works, including the Teammates for Kids Child Life Zone scheduled to open in early fall 2024. This kid-friendly space will house areas for kids to watch movies, play video games, complete art projects and make music while in the hospital. This zone is one of the many facets intended to make the Children’s Tower more comfortable for pediatric patients and families. Playrooms, a family gym, family lounges and a café with kid-friendly food options were available on opening day, while an in-hospital Ronald McDonald House supported by RMHC Richmond, multifaith chapel and indoor children’s garden opened a couple months later.

A healing space for kids thanks to generous community support

This massive undertaking to support the care of children in our community, from construction to outfitting the tower, was a $420 million project, supported by Children’s Hospital Foundation’s $100 million capital campaign.

“When we launched our capital campaign to support the Children’s Tower in 2019, the response was incredible and showed us how passionately the community felt about bringing a comprehensive children’s hospital to Richmond,” Lauren Moore, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation, said. “Our donors have been thrilled to hear about the incredible work being done in the Children’s Tower this year, and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped bring the facility to life. Without our community of support, none of this is possible.”

The Children’s Tower is adjacent to the outpatient Children’s Pavilion, completing one block in downtown Richmond dedicated to providing medical care for children. While the Children’s Tower facility is celebrating its first birthday, CHoR has a 104-year history of caring for kids.

First responders from throughout the region will join the birthday celebration this evening by shining their vehicle lights and waving to patients from the streets below. This second annual “goodnight lights” event will take place at 8:45 p.m. at 1001 E. Marshall Street, Richmond.