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North Queensland's guardian angels step into miracle role

Published:  17 December 2020

They are the guardian angels that help nurse North Queensland’s Christmas miracles back to health but for the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) the job is never done.

The PICU team cares for more than 300 critically unwell North Queensland children every year.

Their patients often require life support for a range of conditions including burns, respiratory illness and major trauma.

PICU clinical lead and intensivist Dr Greg Wiseman oversees a team of four senior doctors, six junior doctors, 30 nursing staff and a range of allied health professionals from social workers, to speech pathologists and pharmacists.

Dr Wiseman said the care provided in PICU is more targeted than other areas of medicine.

“The children that we see are critically ill and often need life support, so they need very close monitoring and extra hands on clinical staff,” he said.

“It is a very different place to families because they are exposed to so many people who are there to support them in their recovery.

“There is nothing better than being able to send a child home to their family.”

 Dr Wiseman said it was difficult but extremely rewarding work.

“It can be tough, and it can be tragic in some cases, but it is very rewarding at other times,” he said.

“We have tough days, but we also have fantastic days as well. Certainly, we have more good days than bad days.”

Clinical nurse consultant Sam Tenison-Woods said Christmas was an especially challenging time for families with children in PICU.

“We don’t pretend that families are getting the Christmas that they’d be having at home,” she said.

“What we do though is to try and bring as much Christmas spirit as we can into the ward every year and Brighter Lives always help us decorating the ward.”

Sam said the biggest highlights the team have is when the families come and say goodbye before they leave.

“A lot of our children when they leave us still need medical care in places like our children’s ward,” she said.

“The team always love when the family come back to say goodbye before they go home to get on with their lives.”

Townsville’s PICU opened in 2014 and cares for children from Mackay to Mt Isa to the Cape and Torres.

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