100 Years

1954 to 1959: Advances in Body and Mind

Is It Good for the Children?

The Children's Orthopedic Hospital Association Board of Trustees continues to manage all details of the hospital right down to deciding to purchase used mops instead of new ones. As frugal as the board can be, they never cut corners when the expense involves the care of children.

Is It Good for the Children Children’s is known for its exceptional nursing care  

At one board meeting, the trustees put a hold on an order from the Seattle Fire Department to replace all of the glass in the nurses' stations to more fire-resistant panes until money becomes available. The next item of business — an even greater financial request — comes from the surgeons who ask for new lights in the operating rooms.

Trustees promptly approve this request because the new lighting directly affects quality of care.

The Research Question

The Research Question Research equipment  

Research is a delicate subject at Children's Orthopedic. While the board expects physicians to monitor the national development of new pediatric procedures gained through research, they are wary of participating directly in research lest the public think they are "experimenting" on children — especially poor children entrusted to their care.

This hesitancy is gradually eroded by mounting physician requests and the obvious benefits that research can bring to all children. In 1956, the trustees form a joint committee with doctors to fund small, discrete projects.

By 1959, antibiotics and other discoveries cut approximately 35 days out of the average hospital stay reported in 1929. The board is now firmly committed to research as one of the missions at the Orthopedic and to building separate laboratory space to accommodate projects.

At the same time, trustees are clear that research funds will not be drawn from resources for charity care.

Doctor Docter

Doctor Docter Dr. Jack Docter circa 1975  

By the mid-1950s, Chief of Staff Vernon Spickard and other volunteer physicians are overwhelmed by the patient load at Children's Orthopedic Hospital and the teaching demands imposed by the University of Washington.

Spickard convinces the Medical Executive Committee to hire Dr. Jack M. Docter as the hospital's first paid medical director to oversee patient care and hospital services. Docter's likeable manner and his funny name are an instant hit with kids, and his skills and passion impress the city's leading pediatricians.

The Innovative Administrator

Innovative Administrator Many specialists work together to care for patients with special needs  

Children's Orthopedic Hospital administrator Eva Erickson is known for her logic, intelligence and a rare ability to conceptualize and implement better ways of delivering care.

Among the innovative medical practices Erickson institutes is the "coordinated care conference," a meeting that brings together all of a patient's care providers — physician, nurse, dietitician, teacher, psychologist, social worker — to develop an integrated plan of care that is tailored to that individual child.

Erickson also increases visiting hours so that families may see patients daily — a move that is immediately correlated to an improvement in patients' emotional health.

Advances in Body and Mind

In October 1958, Drs. Robert A. Tidwell and Dean Crystal perform Children's Orthopedic's first open-heart surgery, on an 8-year-old girl.

Although the surgery is successful, it is not without its risks; nationally, less than 50% of patients survive after surgery, but they have no other options for survival without it.

Advances in Body and Mind Children’s psychiatrist gives patient Rorschach test  

In the early 1900s, parents who came to the hospital with "feeble-minded" children received sympathy and were turned away. After World War II, advances in the understanding of child development and mental health spurred Children's Orthopedic Hospital to hire its first psychologist to assist disfigured children in conjunction with the Cleft Palate Service.

By October 1955, the hospital's Social Service Department opens a clinic for mental retardation. Volunteer psychiatrists, neurologists and pediatricians provide children with complete diagnostic care.

In its first year, the clinic evaluates 216 patients with a waiting list half as long. By 1959, the Pigott family's Norcliffe Fund underwrites the salary of a full-time pediatrician for three years, demonstrating the need for children with mental retardation to receive pediatric specialty care.

The Birth of Mr. Yuk

The Birth of Mr. Yuk Children’s toxicologist Dr. William O. Robertson  

In 1952, as America pushes for what one corporation calls "better living through chemistry," more than 1,440 Americans die of accidental poisonings — more than the combined number claimed by typhoid fever, typhus, malaria, smallpox, scarlet fever and whooping cough.

Many of these deaths are children who accidentally ingest cleaning products and pesticides.

In 1954, on the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children's Orthopedic Hospital establishes a Poison Control Information Center; within two years the center is training clinicians on how to handle poisonings.

Although originally conceived as a resource for nurses and doctors, more and more parents call the center directly. In its first year, the center averages 90 calls a month; four years later, it averages more than 650 calls each month, mostly from parents.

Children's toxicologist Dr. William O. Robertson takes over as medical director of the center in 1971. He is the first physician to receive permission to use the green Mr. Yuk logo from its creator, the Pittsburgh poison center. Once permission is granted, Robertson goes on to order a personal license plate bearing the name "MR YUK."

By 1979, Children's Orthopedic is spending $100,000 per year to maintain the Poison Control Center in Seattle; by 1984 it is fielding some 60,000 calls a year.

In 1995, the Center spins off from Children's Hospital as the nonprofit Washington Poison Control Center. Children's gives the center a parting gift of $280,000 to help it on its way.