By the numbers
24/7 ICU care helps the area’s critically ill patients
by Melody Hunter-Pillion
Ben Lawrence recalls the words of the Rex Healthcare emergency room physician the night his 23-year-old son arrived in the hospital with severe head injuries.
“She said, ‘We’re not sure if this is a survivable injury. You need to go stand by your son,’ ” he says.
In a matter of hours, the Lawrence family weathered the emergency room and surgical waiting area, then began their touch-and-go watch in the intensive care unit (ICU).
“Things were really scary,” Lawrence says.
Like the families of all ICU patients, the Lawrences never imagined such a sudden turn of events.
“The family often is taken aback and afraid,” explains Joanne Kuscjaz, a registered nurse and Rex’s critical care director. “Something’s gone wrong. They’ve been in an accident, had a stroke. Their loved one may look bad and very sick. It’s a very stressful time for families, so it’s some relief to know that your loved one is in good hands, with a good team caring for them, in the ICU.”
Intensive care units are specialized places where the sickest patients — like Ben Lawrence’s son — receive care.
“My son had one dedicated nurse beside him at all times,” he says. “She monitored the machine, made sure everything was done the right way, responded quickly and knew what to do. The level of care was tremendous and of great comfort to me.”
This level of care includes special physicians known as intensivists, who are in the unit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“An intensivist undergoes additional training beyond residency to gain a specialized set of knowledge to treat the most severely ill patients,” says Dr. Gerald Maccioli, Rex’s chief of critical care medicine.
“24/7 means that at least one critical care specialist will be in the ICU unit around the clock, with no other responsibility than to take care of critically ill patients,” he adds. “Instead of a nurse calling a critical care physician for an answer and then waiting for a return call, the doctor is there and immediately available for the nurse, the patient, and any family queries.”
“They helped us by being sensitive to us as family members, explaining the situation with empathy,” Lawrence says of Rex’s ICU specialists. “They reached out to us with words of encouragement, but also real words of expectation about my son’s condition.”
No one can predict who will have the misfortune of an emergency and need ICU care, which is why a well-staffed ICU can be good fortune for everyone.
“If you’re fortunate enough to be in one of the few community hospital units staffed with critical care physicians, it means that your odds of survival are significantly increased and your risk of complications are significantly decreased,” Maccioli says.
“For the family, it means peace of mind knowing that their loved one is receiving the very best critical care available.”
For caregivers in the ICU, it all comes full circle.
“The whole purpose of medicine is to help,” Maccioli says. “Data shows that 24/7 intensivists in the ICU make a difference. This model benefits patients, the Raleigh community and all of eastern North Carolina.”
At least one father knows from experience the true benefits of critical care.
“My son is doing great,” Lawrence says. “He’s himself again. He’s young, smiling, happy and has his memory.”
Even so, most ICU patients — including Lawrence’s son — do not recall much about the ICU experience, but their families do.
“What the doctors and nurses did for me was important at that time,” Lawrence recalls. “They let me be with my boy. They all worked together as a team. They made sure my boy did not die.”
To learn more about ICU care at Rex Healthcare, visit www.rexhealth.com.