Twice 12-year-old Andrew DiSanto had a fever, but no other symptoms. Twice it went away. The third time, when he came home from school on a Friday in March with yet another fever, his mother, Charlene, had an uncomfortable feeling.
“You don’t get a fever for no reason, especially three times,” she says. Even though a drugstore blocks from their Collegeville, Pa., home had a health clinic, Charlene recalled a friend mentioning that The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia had opened an Urgent Care Center in the CHOP Care Network Specialty Care Center in King of Prussia. On Saturday, she drove Andrew there.
They were quickly ushered into an exam room. A pediatrician examined Andrew and, with the preliminary diagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia, ordered a chest X-ray. Read immediately by CHOP pediatric radiologists, the X-ray showed an unexpected mass between Andrew’s heart and lungs. “When he said ‘mass,’ I knew it was cancer. It was a whirlwind after that,” says Charlene.
Oncologist Julie Stern, M.D., treated Andrew as he was fighting Hodgkin lymphoma. Because King of Prussia is close to his home in Collegeville, his family brought him to the Urgent Care Center there, where his tumor was discovered, and chose the Specialty Care Center for his chemotherapy treatments. The proximity meant as little disruption as possible to Andrew’s school and sports schedule.
Best Care an Ambulance Ride Away
Andrew and Charlene went by ambulance to CHOP’s Emergency Department so he could be admitted to the Hospital quickly. By evening, he was on the oncology unit and doctors were working to find out what kind of cancer he had. The final diagnosis: Hodgkin lymphoma, one of the most common, and most curable, childhood cancers.
“If we had waited to go to our pediatrician, it probably would have taken longer to find out he had cancer. Urgent Care at King of Prussia made a world of difference for us. CHOP is the best hospital and where we wanted him to be.”
— Charlene DiSanto, parent
Urgent Care — the newest service from the CHOP Care Network — was Andrew’s entry point into a comprehensive care system that spans more than 50 locations and covers circumstances ranging from well-baby checkups to specialists’ appointments to care for the most complex conditions. Families move seamlessly to the level of care their child requires; all their care providers are connected and have instant electronic access to patients’ medical records.
After getting his first treatment while in the Hospital, Andrew received the rest of his chemotherapy under the watchful eye of his oncologist, Julie Stern, M.D., at the CHOP Specialty Care Center in King of Prussia — the same space that becomes the Urgent Care Center on evenings and weekends. “I learned about Andrew the Monday after he had been to Urgent Care, while he was still an inpatient,” Stern says. “Because Andrew received his treatment at our King of Prussia oncology clinic, it was easier for him to continue with school and baseball as much as possible, which was so important for his mental health. He had a wonderful attitude.”
Andrew finished his treatment with radiation at the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, across the street from Children’s Hospital. His scans now show no signs of cancer.
Filling the Gap
The DiSanto family’s experience is what CHOP envisioned when it expanded into urgent care.
“Our goal is to structure our services to meet the needs of families. CHOP’s Urgent Care Centers fill the gap between the child’s primary pediatrician and the Emergency Department. They are convenient to our suburban families and, when a child needs to follow up with a specialist, our Urgent Care staff can make those connections.” — Madeline Bell, President and Chief Operating Officer
Children’s Hospital opened its first Urgent Care Center in July 2013 in the Atlantic County Specialty Care Center in Mays Landing, N.J., and followed with the King of Prussia location in February 2014. In early 2015, the third Urgent Care will open in the Bucks County Specialty Care and Ambulatory Surgery Center in Chalfont, Pa. All locations have X-ray equipment and labs, which can speed diagnoses.
“We opened our Urgent Care Centers because this is what families want: the right level of care, at the right time, right in their communities,” says Amy Lambert, senior vice president, CHOP Care Network. “We have trained pediatricians who know how to care for kids in these situations. They have specific skills around lower-level traumas — suturing, splinting, foreign body removal. The nurses are all CHOP-trained in pediatrics. It allows us to provide a level of expert pediatric care that just isn’t available elsewhere.”