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Medical mystery no match for Charlotte

Published:  19 February 2021

In the early hours of February 13, Reagan Paine woke to the sound of his 15-year-old daughter Charlotte screaming in pain from her bedroom.

The next day, Charlotte lost movement in every part of her body, except her hands and feet, and struggled to breathe.

“She looked like a fish out of water, just gasping for breath; it was really difficult to watch,” Reagan said.

A series of tests all returned inconclusive results as clinicians at Townsville University Hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) worked to diagnose Charlotte.

Using newly-installed 65-inch televisions funded by the Queensland Paediatric Critical Care Pathway Project (QPCCP). the Paine family this morning held a videoconference with neurologists from Brisbane.

“There is no damage to Charlotte’s brain, but we think there is something in the spine that is causing the problems,” Reagan said.

“The doctors were confident of a full recovery, but Charlotte is going to need to go to Brisbane for some intensive rehabilitation.”

The new telehealth facilities allow the most critically unwell children and their families to access specialists from their own rooms.

Brighter Lives, Townsville University Hospital’s official charity, have also helped by covering WiFi costs, so families can videoconference in with loved ones from afar.

PICU clinical nurse consultant Sam Tenison-Woods said the ability to video call from beds within the unit was crucial.

“This technology is going to make a huge difference to the quality, comfort and convenience of care that we can offer,” she said.

“It can’t be undersold what a difference this will make to patients like Charlotte.”

Lynette Adams, Project Manager for the QPCCP Project said the equipment supported the project’s aim to give critically unwell Queensland children and their families the best possible experience and outcome.

“This technology means families who are separated due to illness are able to video call and keep in touch with loved ones during what is an extremely stressful time,” she said.

“Townsville University Hospital provides expert paediatric care to children, not only from Townsville, but across the entire North and Far North Queensland region.”

During it all, Charlotte has retained her sense of humour and has set a simple goal as the first step in her recovery.

“We are trying to get her to give me the middle finger and she is getting pretty close,” Reagan laughed.

Charlotte also had some simple messages for her friends, saying: “I’ll miss you stinkeys” and telling her brothers to take care of the cats.

The 65-inch TVs have been installed in seven PICU bays.

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