Welcome to Defender Profiles. Here you’ll learn about one of our amazing defenders of childhood – everything from what they do for CHOC to what they do for fun – and gain insight into a different department in our health system.
From the moment Tami Salcedo went through pediatric rotation at CHOC while in nursing school at Rancho Santiago Junior College, she knew pediatrics was for her. When offered the opportunity to do rotations on the oncology floor she knew that’s where she wanted to work. During her time in oncology, she saw someone on the floor doing stem cell collection and her journey to apheresis began.
How long have you worked at CHOC?
I’ve worked at CHOC for 31 years, as of this February.
Can you describe your current role?
Presently I am the nurse educator in the therapeutic apheresis department. It consists of several procedures. We do stem cell collections; plasma exchange; red cell exchanges; leukapheresis, where we reduce the burden of white blood cells circulating in patients with very high white blood cell counts; and we’re also starting to do photopheresis, which helps reduce the burden of graft-versus-host disease complications in patients.
What do you love about your current role?
In my current role as a nurse working in the therapeutic apheresis department, I most enjoy the relationships that I build with the patients and their families in their journey here at CHOC. I know that I am making a difference in the health of a child whether it be collecting stem cells for a patient’s future oncology treatment, performing red cell exchanges on patients with Sickle Cell Disease or a plasma exchange procedure on patients with certain neurological conditions.
What do you love about working at CHOC?
There’s such a sense of hope. People are trying new things and everybody’s goal is the same. We all want the best outcome possible for the child. It’s a wonderful atmosphere. Everybody’s so kind and everybody here is so incredibly nice. I think there’s wonderful collaboration here.
How has CHOC changed and progressed in your time here?
In my years here at CHOC, I have seen buildings and people come and go, but most importantly, I have seen the outcomes for many children improve year after year. CHOC will continue to thrive in the many years to come, being the best children’s hospital in the community.
What do you wish associates knew about our therapeutic apheresis department?
We get confused a lot between dialysis and apheresis. I explain to people that dialysis filters the blood whereas we, in the apheresis department, are more of a blood separator. However, now that we have a dialysis department at CHOC, I think people are getting more accustomed to the differentiation between the two because the dialysis department is so visible in the hospital.
Do you have any favorite moments or stories about working at CHOC that you can share?
The reason why I love working with kids is because they’re so honest – they will not hold anything back. One time a child asked to draw a picture of one of us in the area and when my coworker shared it with me, the child had drawn a face with blond hair and a black line down the middle. She had drawn that her hair roots needed to be done. Kids are just so honest.
There was also a time when two kids were playing the game of Twister on the floor in the hallway outside their rooms. One child did not have a leg and the other child did not have an arm. As they were spinning the wheel and it landed on the “right arm blue.” The child’s response was, “Well, I don’t have a right arm. I’ll need to spin it again.” Kids just want to play – they don’t care about what’s going on in the world or politics. During the game, they were not thinking sadly and just wanted to play and be kids.
What do you think makes someone a great Defender of Childhood?
The love for children and a mindset to get the job done, no matter what. We’re always thinking about “how do we fix this” and how can we make it better. You have to be able to want to do the best, be adaptable and be open-minded to different things because things are changing in healthcare all the time. You have to be willing to go above and beyond.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I have a brand-new grandbaby, and he is my first one, so I enjoy spending time with him. I love gardening and being outdoors. I also love to crochet and make blankets for babies.
What is one thing on your bucket list?
My husband and I have always talked about wanting to visit all the baseball parks in the country. We’re both big baseball fans so I think that would be really fun to do. It might take us a couple of years to do it, but it would be great. The farthest baseball park we went to so far was when we went to Pennsylvania a couple of years ago for my daughter who was playing in a tournament. We went to the Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
OK, last question. What is your favorite baseball team?
The Dodgers. I’ve been a Dodgers fan since I was 10.