A dedicated Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physiotherapy service has been established for the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre (EMCHC), based at Glenfield Hospital, which cares for children who are born with heart defects.
Children who are admitted to Ward 30 and the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) undergo invasive treatment such as cardiac surgery or procedures, and Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO), which uses a heart-lung machine to oxygenate the blood outside the body providing support for the lungs.
For children born with heart defects it has been identified that early medical procedures can have an impact on a child’s neurological development, meaning a high proportion of young patients may be developmentally delayed. In these circumstances Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy input is important to provide assessment and treatment to support patients and their families.
The dedicated Occupational Therapy team, alongside the existing Play Specialist Team, provide early intervention for emotional and sensory development, review of optimal positioning, handling and the provision of neurodevelopmental support. Occupational Therapists understand the effects of early sensory and motor exposures and how this affects development for lifelong adaptation, and early input is extremely important.
For many first time parents being in a hospital/intensive care environment can be quite unnerving. Parents can sometimes feel they are unable to bond and care for their child the way they want to and struggle to see their child in pain. Occupational Therapy input helps by giving advice on how to recognise their baby’s behavioural cues/ways of communicating, helps them to learn what soothes their child and different ways of being actively involved in their child’s development.
Rakhee Pau, senior Occupational Therapist for Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “We are one of only a few children’s heart centres in the UK to have a dedicated Occupational Therapy service.
“With an increase in Physiotherapy staff and a dedicated OT service, alongside the existing Play Specialist Team, patients are receiving dedicated time to participate in therapeutic activities to help achieve their developmental milestones. These milestones can often be impacted upon due to children being unwell and in hospital for a long period of time. Children and young people on PICU and ward 30 benefit from this therapeutic input.”
The role of Physiotherapy within Children’s services is to provide respiratory assessment and treatment as well as neurological development, rehabilitation, mobility and assisting with discharge planning.
The respiratory assessment and treatment is important to diagnose and treat respiratory problems. This includes aiding secretion clearance and treating decreased lung volumes as well as positioning to support a child’s respiratory status. This means that their time on ventilators may be shorter than without this service, enabling children to recover more quickly.
The Therapy service has been generously supported by Glenfield heart charity, Heart Link. The charity was formed in 1981 as a support group for parents and families who had a child suffering from a heart defect. Over the years Heart Link has been committed to improving facilities for our young patients, their families and providing valuable medical equipment for the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre. They have raised almost £6million in total.
Rakhee continues: “We wish to take this opportunity to thank Heart Link who have been wonderful in supporting our service by funding equipment to help our long term patients and those that require on-going rehabilitation and development input. These resources have helped our therapy team in promoting our roles, and to provide a holistic approach with our patients.”