Two years ago, Richmond and surrounding counties were void of a pediatric nephrology program. Children were traveling sixty to eighty miles outside of the city for treatment of issues such as congenital renal disease and hypertension.Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU recognized this gap in care and decided it was time to rebuild a program. This programmatic expansion is part of a larger vision for pediatrics, driven by Drs. Rubin and Strauss, to create a regional referral center for children that serves not only Richmond but all of central Virginia.
“The pediatric nephrology program established at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU enables children to finally receive sufficient care close to home,” said Timothy Bunchman, MD, professor and chief, division of nephrology. “The comprehensive program that has been established helps with early diagnosis, ongoing treatment and management of kidney diseases or disorders, rather than a child showing up to the ER in crisis.”
Dr. Bunchman works with an experienced team of hand-picked professionals who ensure a multidisciplinary approach to making sure children get the most advanced care in the region. His team includes four nephrologists, a dietician, nurse educator and social worker. Each member of the team plays a unique role in taking care of the child as well as the family:
- Kidney stones are common in kids who struggle with obesity and their diet, so the dietitian counsels the child and family on practical healthy eating tips to help children avoid this painful condition.
- Kidney diseases, especially in small children, can be difficult for parents to understand, so the nurse educator helps the family learn about the child’s condition and know what symptoms to watch for in their children.
- Oftentimes the social worker assists parents deal with insurance complexities, school-related needs and help finding support groups.
“I work very closely with my team as well as with other divisions of the hospital, such as urology and cardiology,” said Dr. Bunchman. “It’s a mutually supportive system.”For Richmond children and their families, a closer option makes all the difference. The program provides the expertise they need, and they have the advantage of same day or next day appointment service. The nephrology team also takes a special interest in their patients. This year, they used their personal funds (which they usually use for internal gift exchange) to buy gift cards for patients who could use a little extra holiday cheer this season. The team drew names and delivered a dose of joy to patients and families.So, say goodbye to unnecessary medical travel and visits to the emergency room. The Division of Nephrology is one more way that Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU is advancing children’s healthcare.Meet MichaelMichael’s mother contacted CHoR’s pediatric nephrology team when she was 20 weeks pregnant and had learned Michael had kidney failure. Poor kidney function can reduce amniotic fluid, and prior to Michael’s birth his care team provided infusions to ensure there was enough fluid for him to survive. Born prematurely weighing just over 3 pounds, Michael has had regular dialysis (replaces kidney function) since birth and is one of less than 50 children in the country undergoing specialized treatments that filter blood and return it to the body. At 9 months (pictured), he weighed 15.5 pounds and was making steady progress toward the goal of a kidney transplant by the time he reaches 25-30 pounds.