Caleb joined us at the Country 105 Caring for Kids Radiothon this year to share his own personal story of how generous people like you helped him through a particularly difficult hospital stay. Miracle Makers helped the Alberta Children’s Hospital to purchase three state-of-the-art portable ventilators in 2019 and they are not only providing the very best in airway support to kids like Caleb, they are changing the way care is delivered in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).
Born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF), 14-year-old Caleb has relied on care from the Alberta Children’s Hospital his whole life. Last spring, he caught a viral infection that put him in the PICU. The combination of the CF and a very high fever compromised his breathing to the point that he needed specialized one-on-one critical care.
By the end of June, he had missed six weeks of school. Understandably, he was feeling low and missing his friends. Thanks to the portable ventilator and a very determined team of PICU nurses, physicians and respiratory therapists (RT), a plan was devised to get Caleb to the last day of grade eight. Although Caleb was not intubated, he was dependent on the ventilator for high-flow oxygen support. Without the new portable ventilator, multiple tanks of oxygen would have been required, making even a short visit impossible.
On the last day before summer break, a smiling Caleb arrived at school supported by an RT and nurse whom he referred to as his “entourage”. Seeing him arrive by ambulance caused quite a commotion at first, but within minutes Caleb and his friends were busy catching up. They were able to hang out for a couple of hours, enjoying snacks and playing board games. Caleb felt incredibly special with so many people working hard to make the outing possible.
"I’d been in the hospital for such a long time, it was really nice to get to school and just feel normal for a while."
His mom, Kristy, agrees. “It was great to see a smile on his face. I know his friends were concerned about him, so it was nice for them to see him, too. This portable equipment is making a really big difference for kids like Caleb.”Changing Practice, Changing Lives
Just two years ago, only 20 percent of intubated children would be awake on the unit. Many were kept sedated and asleep for days until they no longer required breathing assistance. In order to move children out of their rooms, several staff members were needed to transport a bulky critical care ventilator with limited battery life and several large and cumbersome oxygen tanks.
Prompted by new research suggesting the longer a child is sedated, the higher their risk of experiencing frightening hallucinations, post-traumatic stress disorder or long-term learning difficulties, the PICU team at the Alberta Children’s Hospital launched a pilot program to allow children to be more awake and comfortable while intubated.
"Our PICU team firmly believes it is no longer good enough for kids to simply survive the PICU. They need to have a better quality of life once they go home and we are committed to giving our kids the best possible outcomes."
– Laurie Lee, Nurse Practitioner
Thanks to new portable ventilators funded by Radiothon donors, the PICU is a much busier place. Today, 80 percent of intubated patients are up and around. The new ventilators can be managed by one staff member, have a five-hour battery life and only require one oxygen tank. Walks around the unit and even down the hall to the fish tank are now the norm for children on lifesaving breathing support.
“Seeing children leave the unit earlier and stronger is very gratifying,” says Laurie. “These portable ventilators have made it possible for more kids to have a much better recovery.”