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Team approach helps UNC prevent pediatric cardiac arrest

Posted May 3, 2013

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— The University of North Carolina Children's Hospital has had great success applying a team approach to preventing cardiac arrest in young patients.

Kevin Salem, 5, is one of those success stories. After he was diagnosed in January 2012 with leukemia, Kevin landed at UNC with a bacterial infection.

A UNC Rapid Response Team went into action.

"It was a huge team. I would say, 15 to 20 people, just on him," his mother Giselle Salem said.

Kevin Salem Team approach limits cardiac arrest in UNC's youngest patients

The team approach maximizes the people looking for the subtle signs and symptoms before cardiac arrest occurs.

"This Rapid Response Team essentially is just a team of ICU personnel that carry a mobile ICU out to the patient wherever they are," said Dr. Tina Schade Willis.

They monitor patients who have breathing issues.

"So we even have an earlier warning system in place where we can see a child struggling with breathing before their heart stops," Schade described.

They train family members to recognize signs of trouble and to call for help.

"The team was more than a friend to us," Kevin's mom said. "They'd been so clear."

Before the program started in 2005, UNC saw one pediatric cardiac arrest outside of the ICU every six weeks. In all of 2012, there wasn't a single one.

That means fewer kids going into intensive care, and more kids like Kevin surviving and thriving.

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