GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Greta Betz relies on pictures and her mom and dad’s stories to understand what life was like when she was sick.
“I remember watching a lot of SpongeBob, riding my IV pole around the halls and stuff and I remember (my parents) telling me that it had been weeks since I smiled and they were so happy when I was smiling,” the now 14-year-old middle school student said.
She was 18 months old when doctors diagnosed her with a cancerous tumor that was pushing on her lungs, collapsing one of them. Greta spent almost a year going back and forth to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital.
“We also had our son, Gavin, who was four or five years old at the time. One of us would always be with (him) and one of us would always be with our daughter. That is immeasurable right there,” Kristi Betz, Greta’s mom, said.
The treatment Greta went through so close to home was possible because of plans that were set into motion long before she was born.
The big blue building on the Medical Mile that has become Helen Devos Children’s Hospital as we know it opened 10 years ago on Jan. 11, 2011.
Helen Devos Women and Children’s Center opened inside Butterworth as a hospital within a hospital in 1993 with 24 private patient rooms. The opening of the blue building turned the hospital into a national referral center with 234 beds and the ability to offer advanced pediatric specialty care with more than 300 pediatric physicians who practice in 70 specialties and programs.
The hospital admits more than 9,000 children on average annually and performs 8,700 surgeries each year.
“Those who saw the need years ago for specialized care for our youngest patients were true visionaries. Without them, Helen Devos Children’s Hospital would not be the vital community resource it is today,” Tina Freese Decker, the president and CEO of Spectrum Health said in a statement.
It was not lost on the Betzes how fortunate they were to be able to go home at night after treatment.
“Meeting the other families that didn’t have the luxury of having something so close by we hope nobody ever has to know that it’s there but we’re certainly glad that it is,” Kristi Betz said.
The emotions of that experience have not faded with time.
“It’s not knowing whether you’re going to go home with your daughter, right? Whether you’re going to have all of these amazing memories,” Greta’s dad, Randy, explained.
As the Betz’s watch their daughter grow into an active, happy teenager, the appreciation for a hospital of this caliber in their backyard hasn’t faded either.
“This could’ve been a totally different story but because we have such great professionals, a great hospital, something that we honestly took for granted until we needed them,” Randy Betz said.