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Patient stories

COVID-19 fight - Sesilia's story

In late July this year Sesilia Palusa’s husband was feeling unwell with what seemed like a cold. Even though Sesilia didn’t have any symptoms, they both got tested for COVID-19 to be safe and their results were positive.

Within a day, Sesilia started feeling exhausted and had no energy to play with her two young daughters. Her breathing got progressively worse but the virtual health team checked in on her every day and sent Sesilia a kit to monitor her oxygen levels.

A few days later, her results were so alarmingly low that they told her to go straight to hospital. Sesilia went by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital where she spent three weeks in a coma, fighting for her life.

“The last thing I remember was struggling to breathe.” 

For three weeks, Sesilia was on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that provided life support, temporarily taking over the work of her lungs. Sesilia’s sister Sana recalls how difficult it was for her and the rest of Sesilia’s family, not to be able to visit and be by her side.

“We were lucky the doctors kept us informed, regularly contacting us, no matter how small the update was.”

To help Sesilia’s family stay connected to her, ICU nurses set up a video link so her loved ones could check-in and talk to her even though she couldn’t respond. Sana remembers,

“One day the doctor called to say Sesilia was sitting up, and the happiness we felt is hard to explain.”

When Sesilia was discharged from the ICU, the staff clapped her out while she cried tears of joy. After a week in a ward, Sesilia left and surprised her whole family by arriving home one afternoon. After spending weeks at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sesilia is thankful for the doctors and nurses.

“I’m very grateful to the staff for saving my life, they went above and beyond for me and I’m lucky they were by my side 24/7 when my family couldn’t be.”

Kindness and patience - Charles' story

Charles Li was 20 months old when he presented to the emergency room at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital with severe croup in June this year. He had difficulty breathing and his blood oxygen levels were critically low.

Soon after his arrival, Charles was intubated to help him breathe. Tracheal intubation, often simply referred to as intubation, is the placement of a flexible plastic tube into the trachea (windpipe) to keep the airway open.

Given his size and the challenges associated with intubating young children, it took two doctors four attempts to intubate Charles. Charles’ mum, Julie was so grateful to learn that the doctors persevered with intubation because they wanted to ensure that Charles would avoid the pain of a tracheotomy, a surgical procedure that involves making a cut in the throat area and trachea in order to insert a tube into the opening.

Julie remembers the kindness and patience that the staff demonstrated when they spoke to her.

“I appreciated how they calmed me down during a scary and stressful situation.” 

When a few nurses found out that Julie spoke Mandarin, they sat with her to explain more information about Charles’ care.

“By speaking to me in my native language, I felt very supported.” 

Charles is now feeling much better and on his way to a full recovery. Julie credits the staff at Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital for saving her son’s life.

Grateful family - Mr Tam's story

Mr Yuen-Ming Tam arrived by ambulance to Ryde Hospital in late August this year with severe abdominal pain. He had a history of Crohn’s disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease which causes inflammation in the digestive tract.

After arriving in the emergency room, Mr Tam’s condition deteriorated quickly, and he needed multiple blood transfusions and immediate surgery.

Although stressful for his family, Mr Tam’s daughter Margaret remembers one doctor in particular, who called regularly with updates on his progress and made her feel reassured.

“It made such a difference to hear from the doctor regularly and I was so impressed by the attention I received as a family member.”

COVID-19 restrictions on hospital visitors meant that Margaret was unable to see her father for more than a month which was difficult to say the least. Mr Tam’s family is grateful to have him home in time for Christmas.

Mr Tam grew so fond of hospital food that since settling in at home, Margaret says that he has been requesting jelly, cheesecake, and steamed fish instead of his usual diet!

“I am grateful for the care my dad received and it’s what inspired me to donate. I want to support my local hospital and ensure the next person’s dad can get the same level of care.”

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