New mural

They made a commitment as a family: never leave him alone.

That’s how Linda Wight came to spend so much time at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, including weeks in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).  After being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and enduring countless tests and scans and surgeries, Linda's four-year-old grandson spent the final days of his life there. As promised, there was always a family member by his side, right up until the end.

We could see that this place was extraordinary. Yes it's excellent. Yes it’s professional. But it’s also sensitive. It’s caring. It’s done with humility. And it's here for every child.

Linda Wight

For Linda and her husband Steve, that experience never left them. Not only because of the tragedy that unfolded before their eyes, but because it was through this personal experience that they came to understand just how vital this hospital and its remarkable staff are to Bay Area children.

Between shifts at her grandson’s bedside, Linda would walk through the hospital’s labyrinth of halls. She became aware of the diversity of the patients and their families, as well as the incredible range of medical support on offer. She became a regular in the cafeteria, where the staff knew when to lend an ear and when to give space. Even the gentleman who cleaned the oncology unit seemed to know her grandson’s ups and downs as well as anyone.

And then there was her grandson’s care team in the PICU. The warmth and devotion they showed the entire family seemed to come straight from the heart.

“We had never faced anything like this before,” says Linda. “And yet we could see that this place was extraordinary. Yes it's excellent. Yes it’s professional. But it’s also sensitive. It’s caring. It’s done with humility. And it's here for every child. No one is turned away. We wanted to do everything we could to encourage that to continue.”

So after time passed, the couple returned to our Oakland campus – not as grandparents but as partners. Their personal contribution to the expansion and modernization of the PICU has enabled a major step forward in the hospital’s ongoing effort to build a facility that can serve every patient with world-class care for decades to come.

Investing in the Future

In the years since the Wights walked the halls of UCSF Benioff Oakland, the hospital has come a long way. A phased plan to modernize the campus was launched in 2015, including the addition of a new six-story outpatient center and renovations to several existing inpatient departments. On September 21st, 2021, the hospital will unveil the latest milestone in this modernization plan: a newly upgraded PICU on the second floor.

Four times larger than the former space, the new state-of-the-art facility will vastly enhance the patient and family experience, while providing clinical teams with the environment and tools they need to deliver the safest, highest quality care. The project also reflects the hospital’s commitment to investing in Oakland and guaranteeing access to care for every single child in need.

The new space was expressly designed to prioritize the comfort and healing of patients and their families. It features 21 large, private patient rooms equipped with the latest technology, as well as sleep couches, soothing décor and windows for natural light. And the new private parent lounge was designed for calm and comfort. Commissioned art throughout the unit reflects the diversity of the patient population and the local community.

“This is such an important and pivotal expansion for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland’s critical care unit and the children we serve,” says Kelley Meade, MD, Oakland’s interim chief medical officer. “The pandemic has really showed us how important it is for patients and families in crisis to have private safe spaces that promote healing.”

A Space for Healing

When Linda talks about the decision to support the renovation of the PICU, she calls it an opportunity, and one she feels grateful for. An opportunity to honor the incredible people who cared for her grandson and continue to care for children like him every day. And an opportunity to invest in families like her own, who are digging deep to stay strong at their child's bedside.

“You are so depleted in those moments,” says Linda. “Providing a place for a family member to lie down and be there at night – that's huge. It has nothing to do with providing a luxurious space. It has to do with helping the family get some rest so they can find the strength to focus on caring for their child.”

One of the most striking features of the new facility is the 46-foot mural – commissioned in honor of the Wights’ gift – that will greet patients and families in the PICU waiting room. The mural depicts a lush green landscape, with children at play under an expansive sky, a tree that seems to sway in a soft breeze, and a familiar cityscape in the distance. It also features simple, grounding words – hope, care, courage and comfort – expressed in a few of the many languages commonly heard in the halls of UCSF Benioff Oakland.

“In those moments of waiting, reality hits you hard, and it hits you quickly,” Linda says. “I found myself holding my breath a lot in that waiting room. I hope the families there, from all backgrounds, look at those words and think, I can exhale.”

Help us support the kids and families who need us most.
Make a Gift