Every parent endures illness in their children. Usually these illnesses are fairly short-lived and may include colds, ear infections and minor injuries. It’s part of parenting to take a sick child to the doctor for evaluation and treatment, then to care for and comfort them through recovery. In some cases, an illness or injury requires hospitalization. In some even rarer cases, that hospitalization may require time in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).
Until recently, a child in the Flathead Valley or surrounding area needing this level of care would usually have to travel great distances, sometimes to Seattle, Salt Lake or Denver, to be treated. For a kid, that means leaving their house, siblings, friends, or even one of their parents to receive necessary care.
But now, this level of intensive care can be found right here at home.
Situations that might lead a child to need such advanced care include severe asthma which elevates to respiratory distress and requires mechanical intervention (such as a ventilator), infections leading to sepsis, complications when diabetes is not under control, and severe injuries, particularly those involving the head and brain. In some cases, the child may initially have been stable enough to stay on the pediatric floor, but transfer to the PICU becomes necessary when they become more critically ill. Also, pediatric patients recovering from a major surgery may need to be cared for in the PICU for several days post-operation.
Patients in the PICU are cared for by physicians called pediatric intensivists. These specialized physicians can provide advanced diagnostic and therapeutic measures to foster the patient’s recovery. We provide a full complement of neuro-critical care services in conjunction with pediatric neurology and pediatric neurosurgery. We work closely with our pediatric cardiology team to provide full medical support for children with cardiac disease and we have the capability of treating respiratory failure with advanced ventilator techniques such as high flow oscillatory ventilation. In addition, our pediatric intensivists can provide procedural sedation for any child in the hospital.
The pediatric intensive care unit is where the highest level of care can be provided to children—any youngster from one to two days old up to 18 years. In the PICU, the young patient is cared for by a team of health care workers specially trained to deal with these critical situations. The nurses in the PICU are highly specialized and are experienced dealing with the diseases and physiologic changes seen in these patients. We also rely heavily on the expertise of respiratory therapists who help run the machines needed to support children with breathing issues. Child Life therapy addresses the needs of the child and family to help understand their situation and cope with the stress of being hospitalized; and physical therapists and speech therapists are committed to supporting the child during the critical illness and especially during recovery. Dietitians and pharmacists are readily available to advise us in our choices for nourishing the children and providing just the right medications at the right doses. And, of course, our social workers are always on hand to help support the patient’s parents and family members for whom the experience in the PICU can be exhausting, scary and disruptive to their normal lives.
Meet Our Team
Margaret Satchell, MD
Pediatric Critical Care
Timothy Stidham, MD
Pediatric Critical Care