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Larger accessible parking spaces added to South Garage

Dec. 18, 2023, 10:45 AM

New, larger-sized accessible parking spaces are making it easier for Becca Parker to take her son, Samuel, to clinic visits at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Donn Jones)
New, larger-sized accessible parking spaces are making it easier for Becca Parker to take her son, Samuel, to clinic visits at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (photo by Donn Jones)

by Jessica Pasley

When Becca Parker rounded the corner to park in her usual spot on the third floor of Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recently, she nearly cried.

For years Parker has brought her son, Samuel Parker, 5, to Monroe Carell for clinic visits. He sees about eight specialists. Her go-to parking had been on the third level — bypassing the accessible spaces on the second floor — to find a space at the end of a row to allow for additional room.

This time, she couldn’t believe her eyes — 22 newly striped, larger-sized accessible parking spaces with crosshatched areas to allow for additional space.

“I was in awe,” said Parker. “I was so excited and overcome. For years families like ours struggled to get in and out of our vehicles with our children in the spaces located on the second level.

“For me, it was tough maneuvering Samuel from his car seat to his stroller safely. The space between cars is tight. There are so many families with complex-needs children, and we have special equipment. We just needed wider spacing.”

The addition space allows Becca Parker to move Samuel from his car seat to his stroller safely. (photo by Donn Jones)
The addition space allows Becca Parker to move Samuel from his car seat to his stroller safely. (photo by Donn Jones)

Parker, along with other members of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit’s Family Advisory Council, brought up the parking space difficulties during a recent meeting.

Started in 2021, the NICU Advisory Council provides families with opportunities to make a significant impact at the hospital. Members play an important role in making recommendations and contributing to improvement initiatives.

“We have been successful in making suggestions for the NICU, but this one was bigger than our unit,” said Parker. “To be the voice for NICU patients and families is a pretty cool thing, but this request actually impacts the entire hospital.

“It felt good that we were heard,” she said. “It’s how we create change and make things better for all of our children and families.”

Samuel was born with VACTERL association, a disorder that affects several body systems. VACTERL stands for vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheo-esophageal fistula, renal anomalies and limb abnormalities.

Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 2 years old, Samuel never gained head control nor the ability to sit up, requiring a specialized wheelchair or stroller for transport.

The hospital’s response to the group’s request for additional parking further cemented Parker’s admiration and thankfulness for the hospital and for Marlee Crankshaw, DNP, RN, CNML, associate nursing officer/Neonatal Services.

Parker said Crankshaw elevated the concerns of the group to the proper department soon after the initial meeting.

“I am grateful to the families of our NICU Advisory Council — they have been tremendous allies with us to make improvements when and where we can in our unit,” said Crankshaw. “I am so grateful to Jason Bucher, director of Parking and Transportation Services, who made this happen so quickly for the hundreds of families who bring their children back for follow-up appointments.”

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