Palos Hills girl's recovery is cause for celebration

  • Written by Kelly White

junnah hamed photo 3-9

Photo by Kelly White

Junnah Hamed, 7, of Palos Hills, prepares to cut the ribbon for the new pediatric emergency room department recently at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn. She is assisted by her sister to her right, Amenah Hamed, 9, and Dr. Omprakash Sawlani.

Junnah Hamed is a typical 7-year-old girl. She enjoys school and spending time with her family and friends. But in November of 2016, her life took an unpredictable turn.

It was then when Junnah, of Palos Hills, was admitted into Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn with a persistent fever. After arriving, she suffered a heart block and went into cardiac arrest. She spent two weeks in a coma in the pediatric intensive care unit. Doctors diagnosed her with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.

Junnah’s treating doctor, Dr. Omprakash Sawlani, medical director of the pediatric emergency Department, reports she has since recovered and is doing well today.

In fact, she is doing so well that she joined Sawlani, her mother, Sawsan Abdallah; her father, Ayman Hamed; her 9-year-old sister, Amenah, and a team of medical professionals that included Dr. Brian Sayger, chair of the Department of Medicine, and Mike Farrell, president of Advocate Children’s Hospital, 4400 W. 95th St., Oak Lawn, on March 1 to personally cut the ribbon of the hospital’s newly remodeled pediatric emergency room.

“They did a wonderful job taking care of Junnah,” her mother said. “They went above and beyond in care and treatment. It was like she wasn’t just a patient; it was almost as if she were the daughter of all of the doctors and nurses on staff. Really an outstanding job.”

Junnah, a first grade student at Sorrick Elementary School in Palos Hills, was the one to cut the ribbon to the new pediatric emergency room, alongside her big sister Amenah, and Sayger and Farrell.

Farrell reported it was the quick and exceptional response within the emergency room department that saved Junnah’s life.

“They did a really good job taking care of my little sister,” Amenah said.

“Situations like Junnah’s are exactly what amplifies why we come to work every day,” Sayger said.

Sayger was one of the members behind the planning of the new unit.

“This emergency room was designed to be only for pediatric medicine and built from the ground up,” he said. “It was all about the patient when we were planning this expansion.”

A blessing of the department was held along with the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The kid-friendly atmosphere officially opened to patients on Tuesday.  

The state-of-the-art department contains an expanded capacity with six additional treatment rooms, Level I pediatric trauma rooms, as well as psychiatric and isolation rooms. In 2016, 37,000 children, including Junnah, were treated in the emergency room.

According to hospital staff, the expansion meets a growing community need.

Initially, the pediatric emergency area was only made up of five beds within the adult emergency department. Over the years, a designated space was carved out specifically for pediatric emergency patients. First, it was an area made up with eight beds, then it doubled to 16, and now, the new emergency room will have 22 individual rooms.

With the remodel, the physical space has doubled, making room for the 22 exam rooms with beds. There are also two trauma bays, resuscitation rooms and critical care rooms designed specifically for the hospital’s sickest patients. The original department also only had two isolation rooms with ante rooms for caregivers to suit up before entering the patient's room. The new space has eight rooms to accommodate for communicable disease in order to separate really sick patients from the rest of the population.

The department also features a fully functioning sugar free slushy machine for all patients to enjoy.

In August 2016, a pediatric annex was added. It essentially functions as a fast track for the lowest acuity patients who can be quickly treated and released from the hospital. This space will continue to exist outside of the pediatric emergency department.

Plans for the new design began in 2012 in an effort to grow capacity and provide a better experience for patient, family and caregivers.

The space is much more spacious than the previous department and all of the new equipment is the latest and greatest, according to hospital staff.

The hospital staff has inspired Junnah’s future career choice as well.

“When I grow up, I want to be an eye doctor because I love doctors,” she said with a smile.