Healing little tummies

A young child sitting on a couch holding their stomach

For kids living with a gastrointestinal disorder (GI), managing pain and avoiding flare ups is a part of daily life. These conditions range in severity and occur in the gastrointestinal tract which is a tube where food enters and leaves the body. It includes all major organs of the digestive system including the oesophagus and stomach.

GI disorders can impact children in many different ways. Often it affects their body’s ability to absorb the nutrients needed to grow healthy and strong. This means kids with GI often have bone problems, experience pain, low energy levels and difficulties controlling bowel movements which can all impact their confidence.

One bright mind who is helping make a difference on the frontline of kids' health is paediatric gastroenterologist, A/Prof Usha Krishnan who works across Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN).

A/Prof Usha Krishnan standing in a hospital room
As SCHN’s exclusive charity partner, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation (SCHF) is proud to support A/Prof Krishnan’s extraordinary work, now and into the future.

With the support of SCHF’s long-term donor Western Earthmoving, A/Prof Krishnan and MediKiz have published a world-first cartoon book that provides easy-to-read information about a severe GI condition called Oesophageal Atresia (OA-TOF).

Affecting 1 in 2,500 children around the world, the condition is caused when a baby is born with a disconnect in their food pipe (the oesophagus) and windpipe (trachea).

A/Prof Krishnan first identified the need for the book while leading Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick's OA-TOF clinic - the only one of its kind in Australia. While there was information explaining the medical condition to parents, there wasn’t a resource available to explain the condition simply to their child or extended family and friends.

“There was no available book in Australia or overseas for this rare disease and these families were struggling on a daily basis to explain the chronic disease to their child,” A/Prof Krishnan said.

The book was officially launched last year and has already made an incredible impact.

“This comic book, with the help of superheroes, explains the complex condition in simple terms to the child and their family and it has been greatly appreciated by OA families, not only in Australia but around the world,” A/Prof Krishnan said.

Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation is now calling on our Movement of Many to help raise vital funds for other crucial projects and services A/Prof Krishnan is currently working on. With your support, we can help more families access this extraordinary care now and into the future.

Aerodigestive Service

A/Prof Krishnan and the two paediatric gastroenterology teams across SCHN are working together to develop a state-wide service that will help streamline the care of children with complex conditions that affect their respiratory and upper digestion pathways (known as Aerodigestive system), like OA-TOF. With the help of the community, they are hoping to introduce a new model of care that will make a child’s journey easier from the time of pregnancy and birth through to diagnosis and treatment. With your support, the team can educate and train health professionals in local communities, so these kids can continue to receive the best possible care no matter where, no matter what.

A/Prof Krishnan says that children living with conditions affecting their aerodigestive system need to see multiple teams throughout their healthcare journey from nursing to medical, through to allied health and local providers in their community.

“What we are hoping to do is develop a world-class service that brings all these specialists and appointments together, so families are receiving the right care by the right professionals at the right time, while integrating local healthcare teams to enable early and local treatment, reduce hospital visits and avoid hospital admissions.”

Philanthropy plays an important role in making this possible.

“Fundraising helps us to not only provide world class care and services like this, but it also helps us undertake research and collaborate nationally and internationally, so we can work towards improving outcomes for our patients and families,” A/Prof Krishnan said.

Gastroenterology Motility Service (GMS)

Thanks to the support of SCHF’s Movement of Many, GMS is another world-class service at SCH that treats children with complex gut issues and tests how food moves through a child’s body. By finding the cause of pain, doctors like A/Prof Krishnan can help treat kids’ unsettled tummies, while also providing families with the support they need to coordinate and juggle their appointments. GMS however is the only one of its kind in NSW, meaning families from across NSW travel to access its care. 

To help families stay closer to home and save countless hours commuting, gastroenterology teams across SCHN are working together to help expand its testing of stomach acidity to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and John Hunter Children’s Hospital.

“Expanding motility services across all three major paediatric hospitals in NSW will be a gamechanger not only for our patients and families, but also for us as clinicians,” A/Prof Krishnan said. “With a streamlined model of care, it means we will be able to offer the same access to care to all children across NSW, which will help to accelerate diagnosis and treatment through early intervention, reduce complications and hospital admissions, and ultimately improve long-term outcomes.”

It is also A/Prof Krishnan’s hope that with additional funding, GMS at SCH will be able to introduce a state-of-the-art specialised test for the small and large bowel known as a manometry. Children who are experiencing issues with their food pipe (i.e. Osephagus) currently have to travel interstate to access this test. With your support, we can help families save the expense of airfares, petrol and accommodation while also preventing kids from missing out on school.

New state-of-the-art testing equipment will be an important component of the expansion and is one of the ways your fundraising makes a difference.

“Philanthropy helps us purchase state of the art equipment, which is invaluable in providing world class care for children including those with GI disorders,” A/Prof Krishnan said.

“It also helps to support additional medical and allied health staff so we can make sure we are always providing the very best care to these children.”

With three projects underway, and many more on the horizon, A/Prof Krishnan is confident care for children with GI disorders will only continue to improve and that is thanks to the support of people like you. 

With one foot at the frontline and one in the future, Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation is here to help all sick kids no matter where, no matter what.

To help support the extraordinary work of world-class clinicians like A/Prof Krishnan, go all in for kids’ health and donate today.

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