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A welcoming feature of University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital is its cheerful aquatic design, created by TAG Architects. In keeping with that theme, two 125-gallon saltwater reef tanks, which resided in the old tower, have recently been moved to permanent locations at the intersection of the north and south towers on the third and fourth floor.
The effort was spearheaded by Eduardo Rel, whose day job is technical director of radiology, but whose passion is fish. An avid aquatist with a 125-gallon tank in his own home, Rel, along with Director of Volunteer Services Belinda Baggett and Pediatric Nurse Manager Terri Wright, have been responsible for creating the themes, selecting the fish, and overseeing the tanks’ relocation.
The aquariums are encased in cabinets which were constructed by Bill Hussong and Tim Love, with support from facilities management. One tank has a “Finding Nemo” theme and contains many of the fish found in the movie, including two clown fish (Marlin and Nemo), a purple and yellow basslet, a yellow tang (Bubbles), a blue tang (Dory), a cleaner shrimp (Jacques), plus hermit crabs and snails.
The other aquarium is stocked with predators. Lionfish, triggerfish, green serpent starfish, and a red squirrel fish populate that tank, with a puffer fish on its way.
A third existing tank, located in the U.S.S. Hope, is a 250-gallon cylindrical tank whose most spectacular occupant is a snowflake eel. Soon, there will be a contest among the children to give the eel a name. All three tanks are funded by the Children’s & Women’s auxiliary team.
The aquariums are maintained by B & B Pet Stop, but still require daily oversight from Rel to manage water levels and occasionally remove a floating fish. It’s a labor of love, he admits, but the response to the tanks has been amazing.
“We had an 11-year old special needs patient who wouldn’t leave her room,” he said. “We kept encouraging her to come out and see the feeding of the fish. So finally, we got her to leave her room, and when she saw the fish, her face just lit up.”
About the University of South Alabama Children's & Women's Hospital
University of South Alabama Children's & Women's Hospital is among a handful of freestanding hospitals in the United States dedicated specifically to the health care needs of children and women. USACWH health care professionals are uniquely qualified and equipped to provide a wide range of therapeutic and surgical services for children and women, be it life-threatening illness, traumatic injury, premature birth or high-risk obstetrical and gynecological needs.
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