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Alberta Children’s Hospital launches plan for research and innovation centre

This past winter, three-year-old Nella Grant enjoyed some downhill skiing – almost as much as the French fries in the ski lodge, said dad, Fraser.

She’s in dance classes and brings the lessons home to teach Fraser, and mom Amanda, the latest moves.

Fraser credits the team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH) in Calgary for helping them every step of the way after their Nella’s birth. Nella was born with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). She was rushed to Calgary from Red Deer and admitted to the ACH neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“She was intubated and had more cables, wires, monitors hooked up to her than I’ve ever seen on anyone, let alone a newborn baby,” Fraser said.

“We felt so helpless. Our world was starting to crumble.”

Fraser told the family’s story at a major announcement of a proposed new research centre on the ACH campus. It’s a partnership between Alberta Health Services, the University of Calgary, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Government of Alberta to begin planning for the ACH Centre for Research and Innovative Care.

Nella body was cooled to 33.5 degrees Celsius for 72 hours to allow her brain to rest, preventing further damage. She was dealing with seizures, sometimes an hour long and had to be on medication, then taken off.

“These treatments, these protocols, were all thanks to one thing, and that’s research,” Fraser said.

“It was such a scary time for us, but every step of the way, they reassured us that everything that can be done was being done for Nella.”

‘Inspiring’ Alberta Children’s Hospital research teams

Dr. Susa Benseler, director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, said she had to pinch herself just to ensure this day was, in fact, a reality.

“I’d like to take a moment to share with you how inspiring and energizing planning the center is for all of us, all of us caring for children and partnering for optimal child health outcomes,” she said.  

“We all believe research is care and care is research, and we live it every single day. Research moves medicine forward, and it paves the way for cure, and it decreases the burden of illnesses.”

Today’s announcement was to mark the initiation of planning on the new building. They will determine the scope, scale, budget, timelines and location for the new centre. The planning work will be funded by the ACH Foundation.

Alberta Health Minister Jason Copping said the business plan drives forward further research in children’s health in the province and ultimately improves care.

“We know that children’s health care needs are unique,” he said.

“We also know that helping them achieve their best health in childhood sets them up to be healthier adults, which is good for the future of our province.”

There’s no specific timeline for the completion of the business planning at this time.