Practice made perfect.
Due to extensive preparation, the smooth transfer of 125 patients from Women & Children's Hospital in Elmwood Village to the new John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on Friday was completed in under 11 hours -- and without a hitch.
Four babies were born in the new hospital, and doctors performed their first surgery in the afternoon -- even as 15 ambulances transported patients all day, beginning at 7 a.m.
"The plan we have been talking about has been executed to perfection," said Jody L. Lomeo, Oishei Children's Hospital president and chief executive officer.
The hospital had originally planned for a 24-hour window to make the transfer of patients in case of unexpected difficulties.
But arctic temperatures and a smattering of snow Friday morning failed to impede the plan -- which received 75,000 hours of planning preparation since 2012.
Both hospitals were fully staffed and nearly 700 volunteers made the transition a polished effort.
The day started at 5 a.m., when staff opened a command center to coordinate the move.
The scene was hectic but focused an hour later in the Bryant Street hospital's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit as staff, some in yellow disposable scrubs, prepared the first patients to move.
West Seneca resident Olivia Reger, 12, was the first child to be moved to the new hospital on Ellicott Street.
Wrapped in blankets to protect against the cold, Olivia was in an ambulance at 7:05 a.m., the first of dozens of trips made throughout the day to transport patients. When she arrived, she was wheeled on a gurney into the new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where ribbons, nurses and doctors were waiting to welcome her.
Olivia's mom, Erica Reger, praised the way the hospital staff prepared them for the move, but joked that she hoped Olivia would also be the first patient to be discharged from Oishei. She wanted to see Olivia feeling better and home with her family.
Womens & Children's Hospital stopped taking new patients at 7 a.m., as the new hospital opened for business.
First babies born
Cassandra Church, clinical project manager and director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, said the first baby was born at 12:12 p.m.
At that point, two-thirds of the patients had already been transferred from one hospital to the other, ahead of schedule.
One child slept through the entire ambulance ride, Church said.
Nurses who began their work day in the old hospital were scheduled to finish in the new one.
Saying goodbye to the old hospital was bittersweet for many of them and other longtime hospital employees.
"My whole career as a nurse has been at Women & Children's Hospital, and I'm very emotionally attached to 219 Bryant Street," said a teary-eyed Kathleen Horton, a nursing supervisor who's worked at the hospital for 31 years.
"We've done a lot of good work at this hospital, but I can only assume it is going to continue at Oshei," Horton said.
At the Ellicott Street hospital, a woman in labor was there when the doors opened, and two patients were in the emergency room by early morning.
By 11 a.m., 25 had been admitted.
Momba Chia, the director of public health at the hospital for about three years, and his wife, Miranda, had a particular interest in one of the patients -- their 9-day-old daughter in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The East Amherst couple's daughter, Lema, was born Nov. 1, more than a month ahead of her Dec. 10 due date. She is the couple's first child.
"Our bundle of joy decided to come early," Momba Chia said. Lena is breathing on her own, her father said.
"She is doing very well. She's a feisty little girl," he said. Miranda Chia was recuperating at home.
About 90 minutes before the move, Chia said he was very confident about it because of the skills of the nursing staff and the experience of administration involved in previous pediatric hospital moves.
"I'm not worried about it at all," he said.
Support in many senses
Robert Gioia, chairman of the John R. Oishei Foundation, said the man whose name adorns the new building would have been proud of the glistening new facility.
The Buffalo philanthropic organization provided $10 million toward the building's completion.
"It's one thing to invest in the bricks and mortar, which we were a part of in honor of Mr. Oishei," Gioia said. "But it's the people that really make the difference, and that's what I think Mr. Oishei would be extremely proud and pleased with, knowing part of his legacy is responsible for this new institution on the medical campus."
The last patient was successfully moved at 5:42 p.m.
Marc Leaderstorf, a respiratory care manager who began work at the hospital nearly 40 years ago, when he was 19, found moving day bittersweet.
"I grew up here," Leaderstorf said. "We created miracles here. We saved children and supported families and taken care of the sickest of the sick."
"But you know," Leaderstorf said, "we're going to create the same memories and the same miracles on Ellicott Street."