Anne Griffith says hours before her daughter Amelia was placed in a medically assisted coma, she was well enough to go to daycare.
Her toddler had a cold and a stuffy nose the morning of October 19, but no fever. But by early afternoon, Griffith said, nursery workers were concerned that Amelia – who was born partially paralyzed from the chest down – was not breathing well.
Griffith packed up all of Amelia’s supplies, including feeding equipment that connects to her stomach, and picked her up.
During the 30-minute drive to CHEO, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Griffith kept staring at her 22-month-old daughter, worried she might stop breathing.
“She was so pale,” Griffith said. “And her lips were a very pale blue.”
It only took CHEO staff a few minutes to see how dire Amelia’s situation was: her blood oxygen levels had dropped and mucus was clogging her airways. The toddler was taken away and, within an hour, intubated and placed in a medical coma.
Unlike so many young children in Canada positive test for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu or COVID-19, Amelia simply had a cold. In fact, she had four strains of the common cold virus, Griffith said, as well as bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection from a lung infection.
“She got them all at once, and it just got her in,” Griffith said.
Amelia remained in hospital until November 19, a month after her first admission.
Although she still suffers from congestion and a cough, she can now manage the symptoms at home with the help of her parents and a full set of free medical devices that now surround her little white crib.
WATCH | Managing the disease at home after one month of hospitalization:
Free devices help patients with complex needs
The devices, which cost tens of thousands of dollars, were provided free of charge to Amelia’s family through the Ontario Ventilation Equipment Pool.
While hospitals treat record number of young respiratory virus patientsthe loan program is one way the province is trying to weather the storm.
It allows some families to leave hospitals early, armed with their own breathing equipment, so that hospital beds can go to patients with more acute illnesses.
The provincially funded depot in Kingston, Ontario manages some 16,000 pieces of equipment, mostly used by people with long-term physical disabilities or illnesses requiring medical ventilation. It currently serves approximately 8,300 Ontarians.
The nearly 30-year-old program has faced new demands during the pandemic and is struggling to keep up, director Regina Pizzuti said.
“We’ve seen a real increase in the number of devices being prescribed,” Pizzuti said.
The pool has received more than 180 requests for “cough assist” machines – which stimulate a natural cough – since April 2022. The depot has only been able to purchase about a dozen new machines, Pizzuti said, forcing them to run out of supplies .
As soon as the machines are sanitized and repaired, they’re back there to help patients, she said. Normally the pool tries to buy new devices as requests come in so they can keep some stock, but Pizzuti said it’s having trouble finding any.
Equipment helps shorten hospital stays
The free equipment both improves people’s quality of life, Pizzuti said, and frees up patient beds in healthcare facilities. A study conducted by the pool estimates that cough assist devices alone can shorten a patient’s hospital stay by one to two days and reduce the number of doctor visits.
“We are building capacity within the health care system so that patients who need ICU services and who are critically ill have [beds available]“, said Pizzuti.
CHEO’s director of integrated care delivery said the hospital is working to ensure patients have the resources and equipment they need to leave the hospital as soon as it is safe.
“We absolutely do not want families to stay in hospital longer than necessary,” said Jennifer Proulx. “We really want them to recover at home.”
While the vast majority of children with respiratory viruses are discharged without needing to take specialized equipment home, Griffith is grateful her daughter has the support she needs to manage her symptoms.
Her daily routine now includes hooking up to a number of devices, including a mucus suction machine that goes into her nose, mouth and throat, a device to help her breathe at night, a device that monitors his blood oxygen and a cough assist machine. .
Griffith hopes her daughter will be well enough to return to daycare on Monday and is optimistic that when the next virus hits she can avoid another life-threatening situation.
“We were so happy,” she said. “The purpose of the equipment was to make sure she didn’t come back to the hospital.”
Ottawa morning12:32Respiratory Equipment Loaner Program Helps Toddlers Recover at Home