When Jodie welcomed her daughter Laura into the world, she was relieved to see the end of a difficult pregnancy. But during their first night in hospital, Jodie intuitively knew something wasn’t right with her new baby girl.
“She was very sleepy,” Jodie recalls. “She wasn’t really feeding. I had to express and syringe feed her. Then the day after we got home, I was holding her after trying to feed her, and she started seizing in my hands.”
Jodie called her midwife, who put in an urgent call to the Newborn and paediatric Emergency Transport Service (NETS).
NETS is the only service of its kind in Australia, providing expert clinical advice, clinical co-ordination, emergency treatment and stabilisation and inter-hospital transport for very sick babies and children up to the age of 16 years. NETS operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, transferring the sickest kids with urgency to the place they can receive the most appropriate care. For Laura, that place was Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.
SCHF has funded critical pieces of equipment for NETS over the years, and being a transport service, it cannot be understated how necessary it is to have the appropriate equipment for anything that might happen to a patient.
When they arrived Laura was still seizing and was rushed straight to the paediatric ICU in a humidicrib.
“I remember asking the doctor, ‘What is happening? I’ve just given birth, are we going home with a baby?’” recounts Laura’s mum, Jodie.
“The doctor said, ‘I don’t know. But we’re doing everything we can.’
As a new mum, Jodie was supposed to be enjoying the first few days of life with her little girl. Instead, she was back in hospital, facing the prospect of leaving without Laura.
Laura spent her first Christmas at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, in the very best hands. She was cared for by highly trained doctors using state-of-the-art equipment, and specialist medical teams to provide her with the very best care possible.
Jodie says whilst it was the most terrifying time in their lives, she is grateful for the compassion shown to her by the expert team.
“We knew we were in a terrible situation, but it felt like lots of people were just giving us so much love,” Jodie says. “For a parent, nothing is scarier than being in hospital with a sick child. But the doctors and nurses really helped. They were lovely, gentle and patient. They answered any question and didn’t promise things – but they gave us hope.”
The gratitude Jodie feels for her experience at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick is a testament to the incredible services offered and the commitment to go all in, always, for sick kids and their families.
“To anyone who has donated to Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, you helped bring a child home,” says Jodie.
Tracey is a neonatologist who has dedicated her career to saving the lives of critically ill children and newborns. Introduced to NETS while training to become a neonatologist, she decided that it was where she wanted to stay.
“NETS is a service that picks up sick babies and children anywhere in the state and takes them to a hospital that has the facilities to be able to care for them,” says Tracey. “What we do for those sick children is provide them with the same care that they would be getting at a hospital, between hospitals.”
NETS is more than an ambulance, because they’re able to provide specialist paediatric care to children and newborns.
“You want to make sure that every child, everywhere, has that same opportunity to get the care they need – and that couldn't happen without NETS. There is no way a critically unwell baby in a regional area could get to Sydney if NETS didn’t exist. And our bed is the only way a child who is born at less than three pounds can travel anywhere, by road or by air."
“The system we work with has a large number of components on it,” says Tracey. “There’s the paediatric bridge, for example, which is able to take children from six months to 16 years old on it. It has a SATS monitor, so we can monitor the baby's heart rate. It's got a ventilator so we can help the patient breathe, and a defibrillator, which we use to detect and treat an abnormal heart rate. And then it's got a whole host of pumps we use to infuse the medications that might be required.”
All of this equipment has a lifespan and needs to be replaced every few years.
“Every single component costs money. So as a donor, you don't necessarily need to pay for the entire bridge, but you could pay for a component of that system – and every bit helps.”
“When the mother and father walk out of the hospital, with their child alive, that’s what inspires me. That’s the feeling that keeps me going."
Since diagnosis, Laura has been treated with anti-epileptic medications that prevent her from having seizures and has turned from a beautiful baby into a bright and active little girl.
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