The 255-bed, $340 million hospital is geared to care for the more than 130,000 sick and injured children who come to the hospital from within a 250-mile radius each year. Patients will be transferred from the existing hospital to the newly built facility starting in September.
Le Bonheur's expansion also enhances Memphis' status as a center for child medical care. The widely respected St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is nearby.
The celebration, which marked Le Bonheur's 58th birthday, was celebrated with a parade featuring marching bands, floats pulled by pickup trucks, and three special young grand marshals. The parade was narrated by Roscoe Orman and Sonia Manzano - "Gordon" and "Maria" from "Sesame Street" - and the 11/2-hour ceremony was attended by several hundred people who braved temperatures above 90 degrees.
One of the marshals, 12-year-old Chandler "Chance" Futrell of Monroeville was treated at Le Bonheur after suffering an accidental gunshot wound to his leg in November 2009. He underwent 13 surgeries and still uses crutches, but the procedures saved his leg and his life.
"To have a national, premier center like this, right here in our backyard, for us as Memphians is incredible, and it's good for the whole mid-South," said Robert Wilson, whose 3-year-old daughter Mary Quay receives care at Le Bonheur for spina bifida.
The project was somewhat of an anomaly: a large commercial construction project built in a difficult economic climate. The decision to build was made in 2005, and groundbreaking was in February 2008. A $103 million contribution from the Memphis community helped with construction costs.
"The community needed it, the kids and families needed it," said Meri Armour, hospital CEO and president. "We couldn't accommodate the technology any more in our old building and we really wanted to create a safe and secure and progressive children's hospital."
The new hospital contains several notable features, including private rooms with sleeping space for two parents. It also has a 60-bed neonatal intensive care unit, a 20-bed pediatric intensive care unit, and a 60-bed emergency department that can handle major trauma cases.
Also, a computer-based call system features mobile communication devices that allows nurses to see which child requires care, and what he or she needs. Wireless technology allows for constant electroencephalogram monitoring of epileptic children, even when they are not in their room.
For patients who are transported to the hospital by helicopter, a dedicated elevator takes just one minute to take them from the roof to the emergency room.
Some amenities are intended to make hospital stays easier for parents and children. Each patient room has a 32-inch flat screen, high-definition television with a jack to accommodate video game systems and other personal electronic devices.
And, a family resource center will let parents use computers to catch up on business or research their child's illness with the help of an educator.