Caring for the family under one roof

Learning that your child needs surgery is a stressful time. But when the decision is made on short notice and you're also about to give birth in another facility, the anxiety can reach new heights. 

That's what Stefanie Cortina, Salvatore Giulione and their 2-year-old son Alessandro experienced. The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), however, went to great lengths to ensure that the toddler and his mother could receive care under one roof, making it easier for them to get through a hectic week.

Last September, Alessandro had to go to the Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH) after a seemingly harmless fall at home. It turned out that he had subdural hygroma, an accumulation of fluid between the membranes of the brain. The boy required surgery to drain the fluid and was hospitalized.

However, his mother was pregnant and St. Mary's Hospital had to induce labor within a few days. In order to bring her closer to her toddler and avoid the father having to go back and forth between two hospitals, the MUHC team was able to request that she be transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital, located in the same building as the MCH: the Glen site. This was not necessarily a simple operation to coordinate, but one that was so appreciated by the family.

"They are very grateful to have been able to benefit from the unique care organization at the MUHC! The Glen site has truly become a mother-child-family university hospital centre. This could not have happened anywhere else; if the dad had health problems, we could have treated him as well. The mom could also have been treated for another type of emergency," says Alessandro's physician, Dr. Jean-Pierre Farmer, Surgeon-in-Chief and director of the MCH Neurosurgery Division.

Solving two problems at once

Alessandro underwent his first surgery on Friday, September 17. His mom was examined at the Royal Victoria Hospital the following Wednesday and had already gone into labor. She gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby boy a few hours later. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Farmer realized that there was still fluid and that Alessandro would need another surgery on Thursday. He needed to install a shunt to prevent fluid accumulation and restore circulation.

The parents then informed him that the boy was also awaiting surgery for an inguinal hernia, located in the abdomen. Why not solve this problem under the same anesthesia and save the child a third surgery? 

In one day, it was fixed. The team didn't hesitate to change their schedule so that both procedures could be performed at the same time, making life easier for the family. Dr. Sherif Emil, general surgeon, performed the hernia surgery.

The Obstetrics Department at the Royal Victoria Hospital was also able to keep mom and baby for an extra day while Alessandro was discharged. On Friday morning, the health care team mobilized to quickly get a magnetic resonance imaging scan to make sure the fluid was resolving. It did!

Alessandro was able to leave Friday afternoon, along with his mother and new baby brother, instead of spending the weekend in the hospital.

"All this coordination required a lot of strategies, phone calls, text messages... It was a real team effort," says Dr. Farmer.

It paid off; the reunited family was finally able to rest together at home and recover from all these emotions.