As a pediatric kidney specialist, Robyn Matloff, M.D., is deeply thankful for the high-tech wizardry at Connecticut Children’s, the 30,000-square-foot facility where she and her colleagues bring life-saving care to some of the state’s youngest patients and adolescents.
But what really made the nephrologist beam with pride recently was seeing the Post Road West site through the eyes of a little girl she was treating.
“She said, ‘That’s where I play with Emily every Friday!’” says Robyn, a Westport mom herself who is the site’s medical director. “She’s getting physical therapy and didn’t even know it. She just thinks it’s a fun place where she’s coming to play.”
And that’s just the magical balancing act leaders at Connecticut Children’s hope to achieve: providing cutting-edge care in 20 specialties, including cardiology, orthopedics and speech-language pathology, in a welcoming space that makes kids and their families feel comfortable, safe and valued. From its 187-bed hospital in Hartford to specialty care clinics in Westport, Danbury, Shelton, Farmington and Glastonbury, Connecticut Children’s offers crucial care, outreach and advocacy for families facing both routine and acutely stressful situations.
“We treat everything from constipation to cancer,” Robyn says of the well-planned facility, which has had much to celebrate in recent months.
In December, the facility marked its first year in Westport. Team members also celebrated the donor naming of its pediatric infusion center, the only site of its kind in Fairfield County. There, children can receive intravenous treatments that can routinely take one to eight hours to complete, Robyn explains. The centrally located facility – close to I-95 and the Merritt Parkway and on a bus line – is a godsend for busy families and children with Crohn’s Disease, cancer or in need of growth hormone stimulation treatments who might be scared or bored in a traditional infusion site catering to adult patients.
“If you’re talking about being somewhere for up to eight hours, taking some of the travel time out of the equation is huge for families,” Robyn adds.
Founded as a 10-bed hospital for children who suffered incurable conditions like cerebral palsy, spina bifida and polio, Connecticut Children’s is now one of only two independent children’s hospitals in New England and the only independent children’s hospital in Connecticut. The primary pediatric teaching hospital for the UConn School of Medicine, it has a teaching partnership with the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University and is a research partner of The Jackson Laboratory.
With each of its facilities, Robyn said, Connecticut Children’s tries to add elements to make children feel at home. The Westport facility includes bright cheerful rooms with plenty of toys and video games in the waiting rooms.
“Some of them enjoy it so much, they don’t want to leave,” she says.
Leaders are also sure to make inroads into the community: At Westport, Connecticut Children’s held a vaccination clinic at Staples HIgh School, protecting more than 700 children against Covid-19. In addition to partnerships and outreach with the local schools, which sometimes facilitate in-school treatments, the facility includes relationships with hundreds of doctors.
“Every pediatrician in Fairfield County has my cell phone number at this point,” Robyn jokes.
She and others also participate in Connecticut Children’s advocacy for children’s medical issues throughout the state.
The main focus, of course, is children’s health and finding ways to get each patient the individualized care he or she needs efficiently. Connecticut Children’s operates the state’s only pediatric dialysis center in Hartford; well-considered orthopedic facilities in Westport mean children with a suspected broken arm can get it evaluated, x-rayed, casted and rehabbed all in one hallway.
Ties to the network mean specialists can consult with each other, forming an expert team that extends across boundaries. “We have a fetal surgeon who works with babies in the womb,” Robyn says. “I can meet my patients before they’re even born.”
With traditional hospitals cutting down on services specialized for pediatrics due to budget constraints, Connecticut Children’s is a good option for families looking for comprehensive care for their youngsters, Robyn says.
And it’s a rewarding place to work, she adds.
“I go to bed at night happy that I’ve made a difference during my day,” she adds. “This is how healthcare should be going. We’re bringing complex care close to home.”
“She just thinks it’s a fun place where she’s coming to play.”
“This is how healthcare should be going. We’re bringing complex care close to home.”