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Alberta Health Services is opening a specialized emergency care space geared towards children at its southeast Calgary hospital.

The new child-friendly space, or pod, is located next to the main emergency department at South Health Campus.

The pod has nine beds, theme rooms with murals and a private waiting space to help make the hospital setting less intimidating for young patients and their families.

In March of 2016 Melanie Nielson’s son Ethan was hit by a car, a moment they'll never forget.  Ethan, now 12 years old, is doing well and participated in Thursday's ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"Ethan’s favourite part when we did it was the footprints by the doors, he loved that each room has different foot prints going in that matched the theme of the room," said Melanie Nielson.  "There’s bubbles for the water room, we have fox footprints in this room, and it was just engaging and he was figuring that out right from the beginning."

The $3.9-million project was fully funded by anonymous donations to Calgary Health Trust through the Calgary Foundation and the operational costs to staff the pod are managed within the facility’s existing emergency department budget.

Dr. Shabnam Minoosepehr is a pediatrician and mother of two who was a member of the design committee for the project. She says the emergency department only had four rooms dedicated to children but, thanks to the new pods, it now has nine.

"We are going to have some iPads for the kids to be able to interact while they’re waiting to get treatment or while the treatment is in progress so a lot of it is for them," explained Dr. Minoosepehr. "A quiet space, doors to close, so that kids don’t run around the department, they have their own private area."

The South Health Campus emergency department handled more than 14,000 pediatric emergency visits last year, nearly 20 per cent of all of its emergency department visits.

Most pediatric emergency patients are from communities in south Calgary, Okotoks, High River, Strathmore or other surrounding towns. The South Health Campus is 40 kilometres away from the Alberta Children’s Hospital.

Calgary Health Trust is a Calgary-based charity focused on fundraising.  The incredible generosity of its donors has helped to raise more than $459 million for healthcare since 1996.