Toddler hospitalized for a month with a cold sent home with medical equipment

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A small child lies in a hospital bed with a tube in his mouth.
Amelia Griffith-Thomas was intubated at the hospital. She stayed with CHEO for a month. (Provided by Anne Griffith)

Anne Griffith says just hours before her daughter Amelia had to be put into a medically-assisted coma, she was well enough to go to day care.

Her toddler had a cold and stuffy nose on the morning of October 19, but no fever. But by early afternoon, Griffith said, daycare workers were concerned that Amelia — who was born partially paralyzed from the chest down — wasn’t breathing well.

Griffith packed 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 checking on her 22-month-old daughter, worried she would stop breathing.

“She was so pale,” Griffith said. “And her lips were very light blue.”

It took only a few minutes for the CHEO staff to see the seriousness of Amelia’s situation: her blood oxygen levels had plummeted and mucus was clogging her airways. The toddler was whisked away and within an hour intubated and placed in a medically induced coma.

Unlike so many young children in Canada tested positive for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), flu or COVID-19, Amelia simply had a cold. She actually had four strains of the cold virus, Griffith said, along with bacterial pneumonia and a blood infection stemming from a lung infection.

“She got them all at once and it just did her,” Griffith said.

Amelia stayed in the hospital until November 19, a full month after she was first admitted.

While she still suffers from congestion and coughing, she can now manage the symptoms at home with the help of her parents and a full set of free medical equipment that now surrounds her little white crib.

SEE | Managing illness at home after a month in hospital:

Mother talks about her daughter’s recent emergency visit at CHEO

Anne Griffith said her daughter Amelia – who was born partially paralyzed from the chest down – was at daycare when she started having trouble breathing.

Free devices help patients with complex needs

The devices, which run into the tens of thousands of dollars, were provided free of charge to Amelia’s family through Ontario Ventilator Equipment Pool.

As hospitals deal with record number of young patients with respiratory virusesthe lending program is one way the province is trying to get through the increase.

It allows some families to leave hospitals earlier, armed with their own breathing equipment, so that hospital beds can go to patients suffering from more acute illnesses.

The provincially funded Kingston, Ont., depot manages about 16,000 pieces of equipment, mostly used by people with long-term physical disabilities or illnesses that require medical ventilation. It currently serves about 8,300 Ontarians.

Amelia wears her bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPap) device that allows her to breathe better when she sleeps. (Provided by Anne Griffith)

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 a dozen new machines, Pizzuti said, forcing them to use up their reserves.

As soon as machines are cleaned and repaired, they are back out to help patients, she said. Normally, the pool tries to buy new units as requests come in so it can keep an inventory, but Pizzuti said it’s having a hard time finding any.

A woman sits on a bed near a cot, surrounded by medical equipment.
Griffith sits by her daughter’s crib, surrounded by equipment provided by the Ontario Ventilator Equipment Pool. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Equipment helps shorten hospital stays

The free equipment both improves the quality of life for people, Pizzuti said, and frees up patient beds in health care facilities. A study carried out by the pool estimates that cough relief machines alone can shorten a patient’s hospital stay by one to two days and lead to fewer doctor visits.

“We create capacity in the healthcare system so that patients who need services from the intensive care unit and are acutely ill, [beds available]Pizzuti said.

CHEO’s director of integrated care delivery said the hospital strives to ensure patients have the resources and equipment they need to leave the hospital as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We absolutely do not want families to stay in the hospital any longer than necessary,” Jennifer Proulx said. “We really want them to recover at home.”

While the vast majority of children with respiratory viruses are discharged without having to bring home special equipment, Griffith is grateful that her daughter has the support she needs to manage her symptoms.

Amelia, 22 months, plays with her busy board at home in Ottawa on Nov. 22, 2022, less than a week after she was discharged from CHEO. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Her daily routine now includes being attached to a variety of devices, including a mucus aspirator that goes in her nose, mouth and throat, a device that helps her breathe at night, a device that monitors her blood oxygen and a cough machine. .

Griffith hopes her daughter will be well enough to return to daycare Monday and is optimistic when the next virus hits, they’ll be able to avoid another life-threatening situation.

“We were so happy,” she said. “The whole point of the equipment was to make sure she doesn’t come back to the hospital.”

Ottawa morning12:32 p.mLending breathing equipment helps toddlers recover at home

Her mother says she is grateful the equipment shortened her hospital stay

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