Patient Stories

Reprinted with permission from the "Redland Daily Facts" by Tony Castro, staff writer

Four-year-old Frederick Fozounmayeh of Agoura Hills may be the poster child for pediatric care in the San Fernando Valley.

In his young life, he has already undergone six surgeries to repair kidney and bladder damage – the most recent last week at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, whose pediatrics department is quickly becoming ground zero for child care in the Valley.

"Some of the surgeries Frederick has had could have more easily been done at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, but we wanted them done here, so they brought in special equipment to do them," says his mother, Michelle Fozounmayeh.

"Providence Tarzana has literally saved his life," she said.

It is an endorsement that the medical center hopes will become the mantra in coming years as it continues to beef up its pediatrics department in a long-range plan to become a full-fledged children's hospital.

"We're trying to become the children's center for the Valley," says Alicia Briggs, chief of pediatrics at Providence Tarzana. "We have a great interest in bringing every subspecialty here because we want to care for all children here," Briggs adds.

The hospital's comprehensive pediatrics program includes intensive-care units for newborns and children as well as a diabetes program to serve a growing number of youngsters with diabetes.

Hospital officials say that Providence Tarzana is also one of a few community hospitals in the region equipped to handle pediatric surgery, orthopedics, urology and other subspecialties.

"Our Neonatal ICU has consistently been ranked in the top 10 percent in the nation," says Providence Tarzana Chief Executive Dale Surowitz, alluding to favorable reviews by the pediatrics advocacy group, the Vermont Oxford Network.

In recent weeks, the medical center rolled out a new pediatric ambulance, decorated with children's graphics and equipped with a television monitor, DVD player and the latest kids' movies and videos.

The ambulance is also specially designed to carry an incubator and all its necessities.

"It can be very scary for a sick or injured child to be in the back of an ambulance," says Lucian Bowers, district manager of Bowers Ambulance, which supplies the service. "This offers a child-friendly environment that reduces the stress level and helps make that ride to the hospital easier.

"We've even had an instance or two where the child has been so caught up watching a video that he's said, 'Wait, I'm not ready to get out!'"

The pediatric ambulance, officials say, has been of special use in transporting young, nontrauma patients from outlying community hospitals to Providence Tarzana for specialized care.

"With this pediatric ambulance, we have the ability to get kids here quickly," says Glenn Irani, the hospital's chief medical officer. "There are plenty of things we do here that we don't need Children's Hospital for.

"Severe trauma cases, of course, belong in a university facility like that. But for regular things, people in the Valley don't need to be driven all the way back and forth to Children's Hospital. We can take care of most things here at our facility," Irani says.

Experts say this is all part of a relatively new movement over the last decade in pediatric care that has focused on treating children young patients in a more holistic manner, both medically and psychologically.

"We've come to be more children-friendly and family-friendly in treating children in the context of their families," says Carrie L. Saetermoe, a psychologist at California State University, Northridge, who formerly worked at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

"Partly, it's been a recognition that when children have medical issues they also have psychological issues that are uniquely met by their parents, and in some instances, improves the physical outcome for children who are more motivated to get well when their parents are nearby."

Saetermoe said this can be achieved when one or both parents are allowed to stay overnight in their child's hospital room, which is what Michelle and Farhad Fozounmayeh were allowed to do to comfort their son.

The hospital stays have been such a positive experience for young Frederick that he says he now says he knows what he wants to be someday.

"His favorite part of being here is having his temperature taken," says his mother, "and his least favorite is having pokes (shots).

"Today he was telling us, 'I want to grow up to be a doctor. But I won't give pokes. I'll only give temperatures.'"