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Smooth run as all 126 Children’s patients moved

PatriciOcampo stands next her sEmiliano Vazquez 5 months  as Emiliano's father Sergio Vazquez watches after being transported Lurie Children's

Patricia Ocampo stands next to her son Emiliano Vazquez, 5 months, as Emiliano's father, Sergio Vazquez, watches after being transported to Lurie Children's Hospital, 225 E. Chicago Ave., Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 11, 2012 10:28AM

Moving Children’s Memorial Hospital’s most precious asset — kids — took six years to plan and necessitated a dizzying checklist that varied from oxygen tanks to toilet paper.

The needles on the gas gages of all 25 ambulances pointed to “F” before the first of many 3.5 mile runs to and from the Lincoln Park complex to the new Streeterville facility.

Fullerton Avenue from Halsted to Lake Shore Drive was blocked at 6 a.m. so ambulance traffic could flow unimpeded.

Hospital organizers considered starting the move even earlier, but didn’t want to run into 4 a.m. bar traffic.

It was familiar procedure for many on staff. The staff had practiced the procedure multiple times to ensure there were no challenges.

“We had a full-blown mock move in April to test every nook and cranny. We had staff members who pretended to be patients,” said Maureen Mahoney, who headed up the move.

“We even had a 10-year-old kid from Elmhurst who wrote us a letter and volunteered to take part in the mock move and offer tips from a kid’s perspective. We took him up on that offer,” said Mahoney.

The move was sure to escalate anxiety not only in patients but also concerned parents. To de-escalate that anxiety, the hospital created videos describing the process. Patients were given a “Buddy Bear” that rode along with them in the ambulance along with one parent.

Michelle Stephenson, who oversaw the move, said it took 90 to 120 minutes to transfer the critically ill children and 45 minutes to an hour to shift patients with less severe ailments.

Just two days ago, a patient had a heart transplant and some had liver transplants this week, while two others were listed high on the transplant list.

As of 8 p.m. Saturday, 126 patients had transferred hospitals, officials said.

“We’ve really had no glitches, to be honest. The weather is cooperating. It’s been smooth,” said Mahoney, who started her day at 2:30 a.m. with a prayer.

Contributing: Josh McGee

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