Health Team

Children's cardiac intensive-care unit opens at Duke

Posted January 7, 2009 6:15 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— A new $7 million state-of-the-art facility at Duke Children's Hospital opened Wednesday. The Cardiac Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is designed to improve patients' care by providing a more family-friendly environment.

Kelis Graves, 5, is receiving care at the new cardiac PICU. She was hospitalized in late December after complaining of stomach pain.

“I thought, maybe she was sick. Maybe she caught something at daycare," mother Shana Miles said.

Her diagnosis: heart failure.

Dr. Jon Meliones, director of the new unit, and his staff are keeping a close watch on Kelis as she waits for a heart transplant.

“Yeah, it's been hard, but I've been here. I'm going to stay right here with her,” Miles said.

Children with heart defects formerly shared space with other ill children at the hospital's main pediatric intensive care unit. There wasn't much room there for Kelis' mother to be with her. However, at the cardiac PICU,  families are seen as a vital part of their child's care.

“We let them do simple things like bathing their child, changing a diaper,” Meliones said.

The cardiac PICU also has a video link to the operating room, allowing hospital staff to communicate better.

“That's a tremendously critical time period, the hand-off of the patient from the operating room to the Intensive Care Unit team,” Meliones said.

Duke pediatric cardiology surgeons performed 420 procedures in 2008, a 10 percent increase over the year before. About half of their patients are under the age of 1.