Maryam, a four year girl living in Oman, suffered catastrophic internal injuries following a blunt trauma to her chest after an accident and developed life-threatening airway problems. She required a highly specialised interventional airway procedure in order to preserve and save her lung, a procedure not available in Oman.
Worldwide, there are only a select number of hospitals with a combination of Cardiac Intensive Care Units (CICU) and interventional radiology expertise that specialise in paediatric airway (bronchial stent) interventions.
Sidra Medicine, a Qatar Foundation entity, is one of the few hospitals with a CICU that provides support for infants and children with congenital or acquired heart disease.
Maryam, who suffered severe injuries to her left lung, liver and diaphragm as well as a broken arm, was being cared for at the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) in Sultan Qaboos University Hospital in Muscat.
Despite having undergone multiple complex surgeries, and with the surgeons in Oman repairing the torn bronchus in Maryam’s lung, her injuries meant that she needed to breathe through a tube (tracheostomy) connected directly to her trachea.
Despite being on a ventilator, Maryam’s left lung kept collapsing due to inadequate air entry as it was still not strong enough to remain open on its own and for her to breathe normally.
This meant that there was a significant risk of losing her left lung. In order to preserve it, the PICU team in Oman coordinated with Sidra Medicine, to take Maryam to Qatar for the highly specialised airway stent procedure.
“With time of the essence, this was truly an international effort as we worked closely with the hospital in Oman that was caring for Maryam, to ensure she was kept stable for a transfer from Oman to Qatar. Although the surgeons in Oman did an incredible job in repairing her torn bronchus, the airway in a young child is not strong enough to remain open until they are older. It was critical to bring Maryam urgently to Qatar to save her lung. What was even more challenging was the fact that it happened during the pandemic – we had to put all stops in place to ensure a safe patient transfer,” said Prof Ziyad M Hijazi, acting chief medical officer and executive chair of Paediatric Medicine at Sidra Medicine.
Maryam’s procedure was planned as a multi-modality, multidisciplinary approach with her care at Sidra Medicine involving life-saving support from the CICU unit, interventional radiology, pulmonology, ENT and paediatric anaesthesia.
Her ICU care team included ICU specialised physicians, nurses, rehabilitation therapy, physiotherapy, speech and language therapists, child-life specialists and dietitians.
Maryam’s recovery was very swift, as she started breathing better on the very same day following her procedure. Her stent will biodegrade in three months and is not expected to leave any damage to her airway.
She is expected back at Sidra Medicine in three months, for a follow up consultation and a replacement stent with a view of seeing how her airway recovers over time.
Talal al Balushi, Maryam’s father who accompanied her for the life-saving procedure at Sidra Medicine, said, “On May 18, my daughter suffered a major accident. Despite undergoing several surgeries in Oman, she still required an airway stent to save her left lung. The medical team at Sultan Qaboos Hospital was exceptional in saving her life and ensuring that we got the right support at the right time and recommended Sidra Medicine for the procedure. It was a challenging journey travelling during a pandemic. We arrived on a specially chartered plane to Qatar, with the commitment and determination of everyone involved to ensure Maryam received the best and safe care possible.
“My family and I are truly grateful for the support we received every step of the way. From the Sultan Qaboos Hospital team and their treatment abroad programme to the wonderful team here in Qatar at Sidra Medicine, including their own international patient office. I am particularly grateful to Dr Andrew Durward who along with the team here have been amazing. To see Maryam being able to breathe normally just hours after her procedure has been so reassuring. Alhamdulillah that my daughter’s life has been saved and for the wonderful cooperation between both our governments and the medical teams.”