An installation of digital art, which will be triggered by motion sensors, was donated by longtime volunteer Marvel Kolseth and sits at the end the skybridge for the new Swedish Ballard Tallman Building.
At Large in Ballard: A new bridge in Ballard
“We’re going to swarm you,” Dr. Ray Jarris said, referring to future patients, at the beginning of a media tour of the new Ballard Swedish building that started on his turf as medical director of the Emergency Department.
Last week, I complained about press releases and pre-packaged stories. This week, I want to attest to the benefits, in the form of an invitation to tour the Tallman Building in advance of its official opening.
“It’s a good thing I’m here,” I said to Michael Harthorne, letting him take the quality photographs as outside light poured through the windows of each of the finished floors on our tour. With just three media (Michael, Kate Bergman from MyBallard.com and me) the Ballard Swedish “key spokespeople” group outnumbered us three to one.
“Did you invite the Seattle Times or the PI?” I asked Ed Boyle, Swedish’s media relations manager, feeling guilty to be one of so few guests. He expects more press for the public opening on Saturday and will have a professional photographer on hand.
Will I ever again feel like I’m getting too much attention in a medical facility? Will a person off the street ever get as much time with a group that includes so many directors and managers: Dr. Rayburn Lewis, Dr. Ray Jarris, Jennifer Graves, R.N., Wendy Connors, R.N., and Mike Schaal, senior project manager?
Jarris pointed out the lack of chairs at the lobby entrance on Tallman Avenue, just across from Angelo’s hair salon.
“Patients will walk in, be greeted, and escorted to a bed,” Jarris said. “No waiting room.”
Meanwhile, I was trying to balance memories of past visits to Emergency Rooms (as we used to call them) across the country with this gleaming, guided Thursday morning experience. With every new feature, all private rooms, many with a table and chairs for family, WIFI capability, telephones and flat screen televisions, I flashed back to their opposite: curtains that separated you from the patient a few feet away only in a few yards of cotton, one Christmas morning nightmare, hours without food or phone, unallayed fears.
I knew that I should feel overjoyed that Ballard Swedish had looked at historical practices with an eye for change and improvement, but my palms felt clammy just being inside an emergency department.
“The goal is higher patient satisfaction," Jarris said. "There used to be so many steps and we worked so hard. But now, forget the steps. We’re going to swarm you. It’s what we did with very sick people. We asked ourselves, why aren’t we doing that with everyone?”
Wendy Connors, nurse manager in Emergency, pointed into one of the first rooms.
“All of the specialty equipment is modular,” she said. “Every room is designed so we can put on a cast or deliver a baby.”
I joked later that without a sense of past trauma from emergency room visits in a caregiver capacity that I would be an empty vessel. But what if a patient could have a positive experience: feel heard, be treated well, thoroughly and yet in a timely way. What if a vacation could be put back on track quickly and X-ray results viewed simultaneously by the Emergency physician and a specialist for an immediate treatment plan?
“No lines,” Lewis piped up, looking more chipper than would seem possible even for him. “We got a line, we got a problem.”
More pride as medical imaging and primary care physicians showed off their new homes on the second and third floor. Obstetrics and midwifery will open on the fourth floor next month.
On the unfinished fifth floor cocktail tables were already clothed in preparation for a VIP party in the evening. The view was unprecedented for me: someone scrubbing the paving stones down in the new Eldridge garden, the clouds above Magnolia, a northwest view of the Olympics that was incorporated into interactive graphic panels at the end of the new skybridge that connects the buildings.
In the absence of patients, it was the artwork and light-filled windows that held center stage. Seemingly everywhere on the first floors are new acquisitions from local artists, including a light-filled mural above the CT scan.
Graves, who was on the art committee, took us across the skybridge to the interactive panel. She told us it was made possible by a gift from longtime-volunteer Marvel Kolseth.
Kolseth volunteered in the gift shop for 34 years, not retiring until she was 90. She let me interview her on her last day. I learned of her death only through the briefest death notice, with no clue that she was leaving such a gift.
This past weekend they cut ceremonial gauze instead of ribbon and started a new volume in the history of Ballard’s hospital, harking back to the original doorknockers.
At precisely 7 a.m. on Nov. 9, the new Emergency Department will begin accepting patients.
“This was quite a labor and delivery,” I said to Lewis after we looked down on the new garden one more time.
He beamed, and I felt something inside me start to melt a little. Why not expect the best treatment? Why not expect these health care professionals to be able to deliver the experience they’ve described, in which there will be no lines, minimal waiting. Why not put past experiences behind me and let myself be pulled over the threshold by their sincere joy in being able to better serve their community - now that I see Marvel is waiting on the other side of bridge?