Daily Life

Children’s National Hospital DC – First Visit and What To Expect

My son has been having groin pain. He’s nonverbal so unable to elaborate on what’s going on inside him. But I can definitely see he’s in distress. So I researched and found a urologist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC. Then I called to make an appointment. It was a three week wait.

When the day came we drove out there. Google maps said it was a 45 minute drive. I added 30 minutes to cushion for the morning traffic and other unexpected events. I also decided to avoid the toll roads. That meant driving on Braddock Road to get to 395 North.

It ended up being a fairly pleasant drive. There was some stop-and-go, but it wasn’t bad. Much better than crawling on 66. As we approached our destination I saw the hospital in the distance. I hadn’t been to Children’s National Hospital before, this was our first visit. I expected it to be a white building like the Inova hospitals.

Children’s definitely has a unique architecture. It reminded me of something from a Star Wars movie. As I arrived I saw an open parking lot. But I soon found out that it wasn’t for visitors or patients. And unfortunately, I failed to see the sign on the side that pointed me to the underground parking.

I turned back onto the street and saw a garage parking. Maybe that’s where we’re supposed to park, I thought to myself. So we headed in that direction and found a spot. Then we trekked past the Medstar Hospital over to Children’s. When we got there, I couldn’t find the entrance.

We walked around the side and it slowly dawned on me that we were coming from the back! So if anything, study the map before you make a visit. It’ll save you a good 15-20 minutes (and a lot of walking).

For someone that thrives on routine and predictability, my autistic son was a good sport about everything. Even when we got into the hospital and found we could not take the stairs. The only option was the elevator, and he had a fear of riding them. But you know what? He rode the elevator to the 4th floor like a champ. Then after the appointment he rode it back down.

We ended up being 15 minutes late for the appointment. I was deathly afraid they would turn us away. But thankfully they still saw us. Imagine driving all that distance, finding parking, and then being turned away.

If anything,I hope this post is a cautionary tale. When you receive the reminder or confirmation email, it won’t mention anything about parking. It may simply tell you to just arrive early. I don’t even remember seeing any mention of parking on the website. But make sure you find out where to go so you won’t get lost, or park two blocks down the street like I did. There is an entrance to an underground parking, and it’s on the side. You won’t see any big signs for it. But it is there.

The other interesting thing I wanted to mention was about the appointment itself. The urologist examined my son, and she didn’t see anything to tell her what’s wrong. So she wrote an order for an ultrasound. I asked if they could do that during our visit. But she explained that the Ultrasound department handles that, and while we could walk over and ask, she couldn’t guarantee anything.

I mention that because several years ago we visited a small private practice in Leesburg. My son was developing urinary frequency and having a hard time controlling his bladder. So I took him to a urologist. After examining him he decided to do an ultrasound. He simply just took the device from another room, applied the gel to my son, and proceeded to examine him. Easy Peezy. I wish Children’s National could do the same. I realize it’s a huge hospital with many departments. But for the distance we traveled, it makes sense to have these other services available as needed. Surely they have situations every day where something unexpected comes up and they need to attend to it right away.

So this is something to consider as you search for a specialist for your child. A large hospital system will definitely have a broad range of services. But they can lack flexibility as in the example I gave above. We now have to find another facility near our home to have the ultrasound done. Then we mail the results over to the doctor.

Overall I would say our experience at Children’s National Hospital was a good one. I recommend it if you’re able to go out there. While I know that pediatric urologists aren’t as common as regular ones, I will search for one that’s closer to home. There has to be someone in our area that can help my son.