Rest, Relax, Recharge – Helping Families Find Peace and Quiet in the Storm of Critical Care

Dr. Beary Goode visits Hunter in the PCCU“A rare condition. We don’t know much about it. He needs to go to Children’s Hospital in London right away.” This is just one of the terrifying things Jessica Page and her husband Mike Fernyc heard right before their two-year-old son Hunter was put into an ORNGE helicopter and flown off to London.

In May 2014, Hunter came down with a fever. This common, typically harmless symptom was the catalyst to Hunter’s parents discovering their son had Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), a rare, life-threatening blood disease. Local doctors in Thunder Bay assessed Hunter’s condition, and determined he needed to be flown over 800 km to Children’s Hospital, London Health Sciences Centre immediately for specialized care. At 3 o’clock in the morning, Hunter was brought to London under the care of Children’s Hospital’s award-winning Transport Team. Upon arrival, the health care team in the Paediatric Critical Care Unit (PCCU) worked tirelessly on the toddler, taking stats, administering vital drugs and doing all they could to keep him alive.

“I was told to come to London right away to say goodbye to my son,” Jessica expresses, recalling that overwhelmingly scary moment. “We spent the next five days by our son’s side, as we were told several times he would only be alive a few more hours. Not knowing what the next hour might bring, we needed to stay close by.”

When Hunter’s family was not at his bedside, they were metres away in the PCCU Family Quiet Room. This comforting space provides families a place to sleep, rest and relax while their child is receiving specialized care. “We were grateful to have a private space to take care of Hunter's six month old little brother, yet be seconds away in case Hunter needed us."

Tiny Hunter endured more procedures and medications during his time in the PCCU than some of us will in a lifetime. He was connected to life support, received chemotherapy and had a dual Hickman line inserted, which allowed doctors to administer medications while withdrawing blood, just to name a few. After five agonizing days in the PCCU, the multitude of treatments and procedures worked and Hunter started to improve. Spending a total of three weeks in the PCCU, Hunter was then transferred to the inpatient floor, spending another six weeks receiving treatment. In July of 2014, Hunter was officially classified as in remission and was able to be discharged to be with his family.

Hunter, 4, with his brother Parker, 2Hunter is now four years old and is quite an active, energetic child. However his health care journey will continue as Hunter visits Children’s Hospital every May for a check-up, and goes to his local hospital in between. His family takes it one day at a time, cherishing the moments they have with him because they never know what the future holds. Hunter’s HLH could return at any time, activated by something as small as a cold. If it does return, he will require a bone marrow transplant.

Mike and Jessica credit their son’s life to Children’s Hospital and are so thankful, not just for the care they received, but also for the family-centred programs and services that made it bearable, such as the PCCU Family Quiet Room. Through the generosity of donors like Siskinds LLP, this space, along with the PCCU waiting room, is being renovated to better serve families with children in critical condition. Raising $82,165 at their annual Golf Play Day event in June 2016, funds raised by Siskinds will help to better align this space with the hospital’s philosophy of patient- and family-centred care. With more light, brighter colours and new dedicated areas, this space will bring hope to families during a difficult time. A special thank you to Siskinds for helping support families in their time of need, allowing them to stay close when it’s most important.