There was plenty of applause Friday for a big announcement at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. The pediatric intensive care unit has only been open for patients in the last week. And, now the Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center will soon be in full operation at the hospital.
"It's just an opportunity to give back to the community and help these families stay here and not have to travel out of town, but be cured locally,” said Kevin Small.
His daughter, Lauren, died seven years ago from osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. The Small family said it was tough traveling out of town constantly for her chemotherapy. They didn't want other local families with sick children to go through the same thing, so the family donated $2 million to Memorial Hospital to have the comprehensive pediatrics care unit completed.
"This $2 million will now go to build a new 20-bed pediatrics medical, surgical unit,” said John Van Boening, President of Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. “It enables us to have a hospital within a hospital in Bakersfield Memorial to serve the kids of Kern County.”
Local doctors say there are only 13 children's hospitals in California, and not one locally.
"I can testify firsthand that we never had a facility that can take care of what we have previously had to refer out of town for hospital care,” said Dr. Javier Bustamante, a local pediatrician.
The Lauren Small Center will have a horse logo with daisies on it, two things Lauren loved.
“It's just a wonderful opportunity for us,” Kevin Small said. “And, it will be with our family and the families that have been so gracious to us forever."
You can learn more about the Small family’s foundation at their Web site: www.smallmiraclesfoundation.org
Memorial Hospital plans to open the Children's Pavilion for emergency care next year.