What happens on PICU

What happens on PICU

The PICU has treated more than 6,000 children since 1992, and many lives have been saved. When the Unit opened, 30% of children who caught meningococcal disease died, today we have one of the lowest rates in the country. None of this would have been possible without support from charitable sources including COSMIC.

Time at St Mary’s children’s intensive care unit can be a tiring and traumatic experience, yet our many amazing staff make sure that every family and patient are treated with the same care for the best experience and outcome possible.

On Arrival

Once ward staff are made aware of a new admission to the PICU, they are ready and waiting for the arrival from the CATS Ambulance or through St Mary’s Children’s A&E. On arrival, the team set straight to work to officially diagnose and stabilise the patient in their special ICU bed, each of which cost approximately £150,000 for just the basic equipment.

Meanwhile nurses help care for the parents at this tense time. Our family liaison Sister Helen Avila who has worked at St Mary’s for almost 20 years is introduced to the family to offer continuous support throughout their stay at St Mary’s children’s wards. The PICU Essentials Pack given to each parent on arrival includes information about PICU, notepad, toothbrushes and toothpaste to help them whilst they stay with us. The parents are also offered to stay in funded hotel rooms nearby, or if they live nearby they can make use of COSMIC’s travel reimbursement scheme.

Time in PICU

When the patient’s condition is diagnosed, special treatment can begin using a variety of additional equipment and medication dependant on their prognosis. For example, a child with multi-organ failure may need support for their kidneys in the form of dialysis or haemofiltration, or intracranial pressure monitoring to ensure that the brain is not damaged. However another patient with severe lung damage may need special types of ventilators, such as high frequency oscillators. These many sorts of equipment are bought, maintained and updated by COSMIC to make sure every child and member of staff has the best equipment possible to help save every patient.

Each child requires different drugs including antibiotics, painkillers and drugs to control hydration. Up to a dozen syringe pumps, costing more than £1,500 each, are often required to administer these drugs at precise frequencies and in exact quantities.

As each child is cared for 24 hours a day by their own nurse, their families are looked after by the ward. They have a constant support system on hand, with a re-furbished parents room often filled with comforting food. They continue to stay in funded nearby hotels or travel home at their wish. COSMIC and the PICU staff try to bring some joy and normality to the family, including celebrating any patient birthdays and leaving Christmas stockings ready for when they wake up.

End of Stay

The average stay of a child is 5 days, but this can vary from case to case. Once the child is no longer critical and is ready to leave, they are either transported by ambulance to their local hospital or taken to St Mary’s Paediatric Ward if they are from the catchment area. Here they can continue on their road to recovery until they go home. For the parents, time is PICU can be a traumatic experience, and they are offered advice to help their own recovery. COSMIC are also funding further research into post-PICU support, which you can see here. 

However, despite the hard work of our amazing staff, not every case ends happily. For these very sad times we have specialist staff are on hand to help the families with coping and preparing to say goodbye to their child. COSMIC fund modelling dough so prints can be taken away, as well as being able to contribute towards funeral costs for those families in need. We also fund a bereavement councillor to help families cope with their loss. If you are affected by bereavement or loss please click here for a list or organisations who can help you.

No matter what the outcome, COSMIC and the PICU staff ask all of our past-parents, patients and families to stay in touch if they would like to. We love hearing from everyone, as each person who comes to our special ward has a place in our hearts. You can get in touch by clicking here.