Celebrating the children for whom we have cared

 Netcare Clinton Hospital PICU marks first birthday

Wednesday, September 3 2014

The colourful wall filled with children’s handprints and footprints outside Netcare Clinton Hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) bears testimony to the more than 200 lives that staff at this unit have touched since it was established exactly a year ago.

One child who proudly made his mark on the PICU’s ‘Hall of Fame’ when he was discharged from the hospital in Alberton is 11-year-old Ashton Sharp. Looking at Ashton today, a very healthy and happy young boy whose ambition is to play cricket for the Proteas, it is difficult to believe that in November last year he was lying unconscious in Netcare Clinton Hospital’s PICU with a very slim chance of survival.

Natalie Sharp, Ashton’s mother, vividly recalls the day of the accident. “I got a frantic call from Ashton’s dad, who was with him when he was severely injured at a children’s party venue on the East Rand. Ashton was on the jumping castle alone when a gust of wind blew the jumping castle into the air, catapulting him over a 15-metre tree. Once he fell to the ground next to the tree, Ashton was unconscious and bleeding from his nose and mouth,” remembers Natalie.

When Netcare 911 paramedics arrived on the scene, they anaesthetised Ashton and put him on a ventilator, as he was struggling to breathe. Ashton was then airlifted to Netcare Union Hospital’s emergency department which has an accredited level 1 trauma centre. After three-and-a-half hours of treatment in the trauma centre, he was transferred to Netcare Clinton Hospital for specialised paediatric care.

“Ashton had a burst bladder, a hole in his diaphragm, a lacerated liver, a broken jaw, a cracked pelvis and a buildup of fluid in his lungs. Although we were not told at the time, we later found out that at that point he probably had a 10% to 20% chance of survival,” says Natalie.

Dr Despina Demopoulos, paediatric intensivist at Netcare Clinton Hospital, and Dr Charles Carapinha, paediatric surgeon, were responsible for treating Ashton. “Ashton had to undergo five operations and remained under sedation on a ventilator for two weeks. On the fourteenth day he woke up. He spent a total of five weeks in the hospital’s PICU,” says Dr Demopoulos.

“As we have often witnessed in the PICU, children who have experienced physical trauma can be remarkably resilient and often fare better than adults. Children are intrinsically healthier and their bodies and brains are still developing, which may give them a better chance at survival. Ashton fought hard for his recovery, and never gave up,” asserts Dr Demopoulos.

There is no doubt in Natalie’s mind, however, that it was Dr Demopoulos and her team of specialists and nurses who saved her son’s life. “We were so lucky to end up in the right hands. If we had gone to another hospital, the outcome could have been very different. Dr Demopoulos genuinely cares about the children she looks after and she is never too busy to explain anything to worried parents like myself. The nurses were fantastic, and I appreciated the support they gave me. I was also allowed to stay by Ashton’s side throughout the whole ordeal, and the PICU even arranged for me to sleep in the day ward every night. They knew just what I needed at the most difficult time in my life,” states Natalie.

The PICU at Netcare Clinton Hospital consists of five paediatric ICU beds, each in its own cubicle with state-of-the-art equipment, including the latest in ventilator technology. Specialised techniques in monitoring acute neurological, metabolic, respiratory and cardiovascular functions in critically ill children are used. The team of professionals taking care of PICU patients include three paediatric intensivists, five paediatricians, a paediatric surgeon, a paediatric anaesthetist, dedicated nurses, various therapists, dieticians and other caregivers who work closely with these young patients and their families to ensure that they are provided with quality care in a warm and supportive environment.

“Paediatric intensive care is a very specialised discipline which is vastly different to adult intensive care. It is important that children are cared for by a multidisciplinary team who are experienced and up-to-date in the latest advances in critical care for paediatric patients,” Dr Demopoulos explains.

Sue Pos, acting general manager for Netcare Clinton Hospital, is proud that the PICU is celebrating its first birthday this month. “This is a great milestone for our PICU. We have been privileged to help over 200 severely ill or injured children in the past year. Marking our first birthday reminds us that each of the young patients we have cared for have been given the opportunity to also celebrate more birthdays,” Pos concludes.


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Clinton Hospital
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Beswick or Jillian Penaluna
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
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