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The 15th annual Country 105 Caring for Kids Radiothon is just around the corner. We wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your incredible support, through Radiothon and all year round. If you are a Radiothon listener, you will know that over the last 14 years, this important initiative has evolved from a snapshot of what goes on inside this hospital to a cherished, inspiring event that raises significant funds for the highest-priority needs. Your generosity has supported crucial programs, equipment and research at the hospital that is changing and saving lives every day. Here’s just one example of how our community, through the Radiothon, is helping specialists and, of course, kids and families.
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As a pediatric anesthesiologist, Dr. Adam Spencer can be found anywhere and everywhere at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. From supporting kids through their complex surgeries, to helping children presenting with a challenging IV start, to performing nerve blocks to manage pain, Dr. Spencer and his colleagues care for young patients all over the hospital.

Dr. Spencer demonstrates the Pocket UltrasoundHe relies on his specialized training and in-depth knowledge of children’s anatomy to carefully place needles, arterial or central lines in children. However some kids are so sick, their veins are nearly invisible. Each unsuccessful poke can leave veins compromised, and often, the child miserable.

Thanks to your incredible support during of the Country 105 Caring for Kids Radiothon, a state-of-the-art portable Pocket Ultrasound is changing and improving the way anesthesiologists care for their patients. The technology is helping these specialists “see” intricate tissues and vessels more clearly to be able to perform IV starts and other procedures with greater accuracy, making the process more comfortable and less stressful for the child.

Weighing less than a pound, this technology fits easily in a pocket allowing anesthesiologists to bring it to the patient anywhere in the hospital to use also as a diagnostic tool right at the bedside.

“It means we can use this to look at the lung or to look at the heart,” says Dr. Spencer. “I can even use it for gastric ultrasound to find out if a patient has fasted appropriately prior to surgery. This machine has made a huge difference to us as a department and to the children we care for on a daily basis.”

With the technology guiding them, anesthesiologists can see a child’s anatomy more clearly prior to attempting an IV start. Finding a difficult-to-see vein with the help of the Pocket Ultrasound means fewer pokes for children, and for those needing urgent IV access for crucial antibiotics, the technology can be a life-saver. And using the Pocket Ultrasound to assist with nerve blocks – in which the nerve is bathed with an anesthetic using a needle and catheter – means these experts can help control a child’s pain without relying strictly on opioids such as morphine.

“We can combine ultrasound-guided nerve blocks with standard medicine and get great pain relief using those avenues and spare the amount of opioids we use in those kids,” he says.

“For example, occasionally patients come in with a fractured femur from trauma, either from motor vehicle accidents or playing at the playground. We can bring the Pocket Ultrasound to their bedside and do a femoral nerve block right there and we immediately see the benefit of doing those nerve blocks.”Pocket Ultrasound helps find hard-to-see veins

The patient goes from feeling spastic, unrelenting pain to feeling happy and comfortable while waiting, sometimes hours, for surgery. This state-of-the-art technology is also helping reduce the risks associated with nerve blocks including infection, bleeding, and nerve injury.

“Even though we think we are close to the nerve, we may not be, especially when we use a blind technique, so this is where ultrasound has really redefined the way we do regional anesthesia,” he says. “We are able to bring a needle very close but not against a nerve so we believe it does reduce the risk of nerve injury by using ultrasound, but the best thing is that it creates long lasting, effective blocks for our children that we care for.”

In fact, the hospital is one of a few in Canada that has developed a program allowing patients to continue managing their pain in this way, even after being discharged.

“We are putting in nerve blocks with special catheters all under ultrasound guidance and we are able to send these kids home with a nerve block catheter that gives them a couple additional days of better pain relief,” he says.

Pocket Ultrasound demo

Thanks to generous supporters of the Caring for Kids Radiothon who purchased the Pocket Ultrasound for the Department of Anesthesia, kids all around the hospital and those receiving this special type of care at home, are benefitting from this equipment.

“It is truly a privilege to work at a hospital that is so supported by the community,” he says. “The Pocket Ultrasound is a huge gift to our department and we are so grateful to the Radiothon listeners for equipping us with this piece of technology. When we can do our jobs more effectively, safer and so a child can feel more comfortable it really means the world to us.”

By supporting the Country 105 Caring for Kids Radiothon, you are helping to put the very best tools into the hands of the amazing caregivers at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Over the last 14 Radiothons our listeners have helped to improve and transform care at our hospital for hundreds of thousands of children – and this year promises to do the same. But we need your help.

Please tune in to the 15th annual Country 105 Caring for Kids Radiothon Feb. 7-9 to hear the stories from the incredible kids and families whose lives have been changed and saved thanks to your generosity.

Mom Gayle says she is incredibly thankful for the many Miracle Makers who supported the CPR feedback system through Radiothon, helping specialists including Wendy to save her daughter.
“She would not have made it – there were so many points that she could have been gone,” says Gayle. “This equipment helped reduce the toll on her body; it helped keep her alive until she could get the surgery she needed.”
Dr. Elaine Gilfoyle, a pediatric intensivist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, says the feedback monitor is helping improve the quality of CPR performed.
Considering the chance of survival after CPR is only 40%-60% in a hospital and just 10%-20% outside a hospital, this tool is extremely valuable. Higher-quality CPR not only increases the chance of survival, but it can decrease the chance or severity of brain damage.
“This machine one hundred percent helps the team reach the targets in terms of rate and depth of compressions,” says Dr. Gilfoyle. “Staff has asked us, ‘How did we ever do CPR before this?’  All of them are well-trained in CPR, but we want to do anything we can to improve the quality even further. This equipment really has transformed our ability to provide quality care.”
All 200 people in the PICU – including doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists – have been trained to use the machine, as well as rotating residents. The Alberta Children’s Hospital was the first pediatric hospital in Canada to use this feedback system.  It is also the only Canadian site participating in a study involving children’s hospitals across North America to compile data about the outcomes of CPR using this technology. Dr. Gilfoyle would now like to see the other departments outfitted with these machines.
“We would like to spread them across the whole hospital,” she says.
As for baby Dana, she is back at home with her mom, dad and big sister Kara. She is growing and developing at a normal pace and it’s hard to believe what she’s been through, says Gayle. “It’s amazing they had that equipment at the hospital,” she says. “We are so grateful to everyone who supported it. That generosity motivates us to pay it forward however we can.”