Snow Leopard: a ward for some of our most unwell patients
12 September 2018
Thanks to the generosity of thousands of supporters, children who need help breathing to stay alive are benefitting from a new ward which was designed specifically with their needs in mind.
Snow Leopard, Evelina London’s long-term ventilation unit, has been part funded by £1 million donation from the Evelina Children’s Fund, thanks to the contributions of thousands of Evelina London supporters.
The ward has six beds for children who rely on specialist equipment to help them breathe for months or years at a time. Most have a plastic tube (tracheostomy) that is inserted into their windpipe to create an artificial airway.
Hospital to home
Snow Leopard helps to ease the move from hospital to home for children. The patients staying on the ward are medically stable and waiting for housing or care arrangements to be put into place to make it safe for them to be cared for at home. The specialist team on Snow Leopard help to train carers and relatives how to use ventilation equipment safely to prepare them for when the child is home.
Before Snow Leopard opened, these patients stayed on acute wards for very sick children at Evelina London. Snow Leopard’s opening has relieved bed usage on these wards, allowing more desperately-ill children to be treated.
Being away from children with acute medical needs has reduced the risk of infection for ventilated children, who are highly susceptible to infection. Snow Leopard provides more space, is quieter and offers more privacy to patients and families. The ward also has a playroom and a therapy room.
A quiet, private space
Lucy Helling and Thomas Madden’s nine-month-old son Noah was born with fluid on the brain and chronic lung disease. He has been cared for at Evelina London since he was a month and a half, staying on an acute ward and later on Snow Leopard.
Lucy, from Medway in Kent, said: ‘It’s so different over here. One of the nicest things is that it’s quiet so we can hear ourselves think. There is more personal space here compared to the other ward Noah was on before so we can be a private family unit when we want to be. There is enough room to put a mat on the floor and play together, and the whole family can visit and not be in the way. At Snow Leopard there is a real feeling of home.
‘The acute ward was much busier so staff had less time to explain things to us. Since we have been on Snow Leopard they have spent time teaching us about Noah’s needs, his routine and equipment, which is helping to prepare us to take him home.
‘Noah is well enough to go home now but we are waiting to find somewhere suitable for him to live. The team on Snow Leopard are so supportive and are always there to give us advice – we don’t know where we’d be without them.’
Lord Stanley Fink, President of Evelina London and ongoing supporter of the hospital, officially opened the ward in January 2017. At the event he explained how he had been reunited with five-year-old Archie Whitby, a patient that he met, on Snow Leopard, whom he met a few years ago on the high dependency unit (HDU).
‘When I first met Archie’s mum Gemma, she was worried that he would pick up infections on HDU. Now he’s on Snow Leopard for a sleep study and the environment is not like that now. It was remarkable to see Archie again – he’s a very happy child and doing well, all thanks to Evelina London.'
Lord Stanley Fink
‘After first meeting Archie I knew I wanted to help to provide a better, less traumatic environment to care for children with ventilation needs. Snow Leopard is not quite like being at home but it’s a good halfway house.’
‘Without donations, this would not have been possible.’
Marian Ridley, Director of Evelina London, said: ‘Children who rely on ventilation can’t go home until their needs are addressed which means they can stay here for several months. We wanted to create Snow Leopard to make a home for these patients, where they can develop and have fun like any other child. We are so grateful to our supporters as without public donations this would not have been possible.
‘The number of children on long-term ventilation is increasing so we have plans to expand the service further. We want to add three sleep study beds and two neuro-rehabilitation cubicles. This will be partly funded by the LIBOR funding from the proceeds of bank fines but we will still need the support of our donors in order to achieve this and help even more young patients in future.’