Taking care of the children

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There is nothing more frightening than watching helplessly while your small child struggles to breathe. That’s exactly what happened to Sandy and Paul Iacobelli and they will never forget the experience.

It was Christmas day when the two, both health-care professionals, had to put their skills to the test. Their one-year-old son, Aiden, began to gasp for air in what was later diagnosed to be an asthma attack. “It was very scary. You almost forget what to do because all you know is that your baby is sick and can’t breathe,” says Sandy, a registered nurse.

Aiden had been prescribed a puffer at a previous trip to Royal Victoria Hospital, so Sandy immediately administered it to him. “He was scared and too little to verbalize it, but I could see he was just looking at us as if to say, ‘help me I can’t breathe.’ It was terrifying.”

Sandy and Paul promptly jumped in the car and headed to RVH where the toddler’s condition was brought under control. Once diagnosed with childhood asthma and armed with the correct medication, the couple then went in search of education and that’s when they were introduced to the staff of the Paediatric Asthma Clinic, one of RVH’s Paediatric Ambulatory Clinics. “The staff was fantastic and gave us lots of education which helped immensely,” says Sandy. “When it’s your child you want as much information as possible to avoid any more trips to Emerg.”

Aiden, now three, has had only one more emergency visit to the hospital. Sandy believes that without the support of the Asthma Clinic the number of ER visits could have been much higher. Every three months Aiden has a checkup at the clinic where his oxygen levels are monitored and his parents meet with a respiratory therapist to go through his asthma management plan. “Having this clinic just alleviates my worries. It is a reassurance to parents, because the education component is so excellent that parents are more confident when their child does have an attack,” says Sandy.

That’s the kind of statement Janice Woychyshyn loves to hear. “We are fortunate at RVH to be able to provide excellent care for children with asthma in our community. Effective childhood asthma management is hindered by several factors, most notably, lack of asthma education. These barriers increase hospitalizations, emergency department visits and impose a great burden on families caring for these children,” says Woychyshyn, respiratory therapist/respiratory educator and coordinator for RVH’s Asthma Clinic. “Our goal is to reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations for these children and increase quality of life. We want these children to be able to live an active life without symptoms, and their parents to be able to sleep at night.”

The Asthma Clinic is just one RVH program specifically created to meet the health-care needs of the children of Simcoe Muskoka. “Barrie has the fastest-growing youth population in the county and RVH is committed to providing exceptional care to this growing population,” says Karen Fleming, director, Women and Children’s Programs at RVH.

RVH’s current children’s services are continuously evolving to meet the region’s unprecedented demand through its Paediatric Ambulatory Clinics, the inpatient care unit, and the Children’s Development Services division. “We are renovating and improving our Paediatric Ambulatory Clinic space, thanks in large part to a financial gift from The Kiwanis Club of Barrie. Our new space will include several exam rooms with a spacious waiting room for families,” says Fleming.

Once the renovations are complete, the existing Paediatric Ambulatory Clinics will relocate from the fourth floor of the hospital down to the first floor; this relocation groups all the clinics together providing easier access for families who require the services. While the renovations will bring all the clinics together on one floor, Sandy Iacobelli is just glad the Asthma Clinic was already there for her family when they needed it.

“It’s nice to know they are monitoring our progress,” says Sandy. “The staff at the clinic has really helped us get our heads around all of this. Now that we know what to do and how to treat Aiden it’s not so scary anymore.”