Dr Tom Papior (SMO- #7), Sarah Russell-Larkin (RN - #1), Karen Jenner (CN - KJ), Maree Evan (RN) in their PPE when they were bedside with the Bundaberg Hospital COVID-19 ICU patient.
Dr Tom Papior (SMO- #7), Sarah Russell-Larkin (RN - #1), Karen Jenner (CN - KJ), Maree Evan (RN) in their PPE when they were bedside with the Bundaberg Hospital COVID-19 ICU patient. Contributed

'CLOSE TO DEATH': Bundy woman's amazing Covid-19 recovery

A LOCAL woman has praised Bundaberg Hospital's world-class care, after suffering life-threatening novel coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms that required a lengthy stay in the Intensive Care Unit.

The 72-year-old woman is now doing well and recovering at home with her husband, following a 12-day stay at Bundaberg Hospital that included 10 days in the Intensive Care Unit.

She was admitted to hospital after testing positive to COVID-19 just over three weeks ago and deteriorating rapidly soon after.

"For me the whole thing was a bit surreal. I remember being told I was going into ICU and I vaguely remember going into isolation, but after that - nothing," she said.

"I didn't know I was so close (to death) until I was told afterwards that they believed I only had a 25-30% chance of surviving (when I entered the ICU).

"I woke up on the third or fourth morning with three staff at the end of the bed and they looked a bit like aliens in their COVID-19 gowns and helmets. I smiled and they looked at me - I could see the relief in their eyes.

"When I was leaving the hospital, the doctors and nurses came in saying they were so happy I was still here, and that I was their hero.

"At 72, being the pin-up girl for ICU wasn't something I expected."

While the woman is now at home in isolation, the severity of what she went through is something she does not underestimate and she appreciates the great work of the team that cared for her.

"I can't think of a better team, who were co-ordinated and knew what to do. I never felt alone or scared - I always felt people were there, caring for me, beside me, talking to me," she said.

"It was a caring and very nurturing experience. I felt I wasn't the patient, but part of the team that was getting me better.

"I know I missed a bullet - I got through it when I was high up the list to not get through it.

"I put my faith in the power of prayer and in the power of what the team in the Bundaberg ICU did."

How hospital miracle workers did it 

Bundaberg Hospital Clinical Director of ICU Dr Anthony Eidan said the patient's recovery from COVID-19 was thanks to the world-class care delivered by a regional Queensland team dedicated to best practice in their field, flexibility in treatment and outstanding teamwork.

A-TEAM: Some of the members of the Bundaberg Hospital ICU team who have been part of the COVID-19 response - Joshua Luhrs (RN), Angela Tuzes (CN), Shaun Grant (NUM), Karen Jenner (CN), Sarah Russell-Larkin (RN) and Dr. Anthony Eidan (Director of Intensive Care).
A-TEAM: Some of the members of the Bundaberg Hospital ICU team who have been part of the COVID-19 response - Joshua Luhrs (RN), Angela Tuzes (CN), Shaun Grant (NUM), Karen Jenner (CN), Sarah Russell-Larkin (RN) and Dr. Anthony Eidan (Director of Intensive Care). Contributed

"I believe the consultant-led model of care delivered by our ICU team in the first three days of the patient's stay has resulted in our patient being discharged home," Dr Eidan said.

"This is an amazing achievement for our department considering the chances of death from COVID-19 after ventilation in ICU is more than 70% for her age group."

Dr Eidan said the ICU team used information on treatment methods for COVID-19 from around the globe and their comparative survival rates to form a basis for their own clinical decisions.

"Our knowledge about ventilation support for COVID-19 lung injury is only weeks old and rapidly evolving every day, which only added to the complexity of delivering care for our patient," Dr Eidan said.

"The strategy for the care that our team used was shared with our team that morning by international colleagues who had been delivering higher survival rates than neighbouring countries. It's an example of our Bundaberg Hospital team delivering world-class care in regional Queensland.

"I am very proud of our ICU team and other departments from across Bundaberg Hospital for their commitment to our patients and community during this unprecedented time. I strongly believe geography and postcode shouldn't be a limiting factor in delivering excellent care."

Communication kept in mind

Another important aspect of care, according to the patient and her husband, was the clear communication about her condition and how the team were caring for her throughout her time at Bundaberg Hospital. The couple was also provided with social work support.

"I only can give the highest of praise - they always kept me up to speed. It was obviously stressful for me, but they gave me reassurance," the patient's husband said.

"After 24 hours I was told it was positive that she hadn't deteriorated and it got a little bit better each day.

"The communication from the ICU team was absolutely crucial. I was very emotional - but they (doctors) kept me informed."

Bundaberg Hospital.
Bundaberg Hospital. Mike Knott BUN130718HOSPITAL1

Acting chief executive praises work

WBHHS Acting Chief Executive Debbie Carroll said she was extraordinarily proud of the ICU team for the care they had provided, and the positive patient outcome.

"Our ICU, Theatre and Anaesthetics teams collaborated brilliantly in providing outstanding care and a great result for our first COVID-19 patient in ICU," Ms Carroll said.

"While significant prior planning had been undertaken, it nonetheless took considerable energy and effort to implement - including the establishment of a second, separate ICU, to enable safe intensive care for other patients to continue without the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

"I commend everyone involved at all levels. These are the outcomes we train and plan for."

In a final message to the rest of the community, the recovering patient said her experience only highlighted the importance of everyone working together to defeat COVID-19.

"I believe we can't stop social distancing too soon and we have to make sure the curve has totally collapsed," she said.

"I'd like people to know they have to be careful, and if we get complacent things can go wrong. But they don't have to be afraid."