Every day at work when I get off the elevator, I turn the wrong way. It has been 7 months since we have moved into the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and it is still disorienting at times. The new hospital has smart elevators, smart phones, smart TVs, and smart card readers – yet nothing helps me turn the right way. It has become almost comical going into the elevator banks, because I’m not the only one who does a pirouette. “Completing a 360” has a new meaning for us all.
Truly the last year has been a time of change within the RIC Family. As one of the Sports Medicine Physiatrists, I walked through the closing of SSRC (or CSSOR to those who knew it by that name) on Clark Street to the opening of the Musculoskeletal Medicine in the new hospital. We’ve seen inpatient rehab floors become Centers of Innovation. We’ve seen therapy gyms become AbilityLabs. We’ve seen the Red Tomato Café become a new dining hall where sushi chefs come in every week to make fresh rolls and poke bowls that are delicious! We have nearly tripled our size. We have more parking spots than cars. We have in-house MRI, CT, X-ray, Fluoro, and 7 different Ultrasound machines for clinical use. We have a MACU, a “step-up unit” for acute medical issues that is staffed by an internal medicine hospitalist 24-7. We have meetings in places like the “Gathering Gardens.” We have our resident lounge (the “Sliwa Lounge”) that looks more like a trendy coffee bar and the technologically advanced resident classroom that looks like it will start talking to you, or at the very least it looks like it is listening in on your conversations.
It has been really interesting to be in a place doing the same job that I have done for nearly 8 years, yet my surroundings look so different. However, in moments of quiet reflection I recognize that it is not all that different. The air is still rich with education, opportunity, camaraderie, growth, laughter, optimism, recovery, and hope. I still run into the nursing house supervisor that ran a Code Black with me when I was the resident on call. (Code Black means dangerous weather - in this case tornadoes touching down at Navy Pier.) In the halls, I pass the lab tech that stayed late with me to do blood cultures for a fever work up – even though it was well past her shift. I share an elevator with the Unit Assistant who always had to buzz me into the 10th floor because I constantly forgot the passcode. I sit in meetings with the brilliant minds of the attending physicians who taught me and countless other residents their craft, both the art and science of medicine. Our walls have changed our spirit has not. Our colors have changed, our dedication has not. Our symbol has changed, our heart has not. You may not recognize the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, but I do. I welcome you to come back to visit us – you will recognize it too.