Recognizing Progress in Our Endeavors
In whatever we do, there are times in which we feel that there is a lack of progress in our endeavors. However, we sometimes overlook the imperceptible movements forward that would make us feel otherwise. In the pediatric intensive care unit (ICU), we see this not uncommonly with infants or children recovering after heart surgery, weaning off mechanical ventilator support for bad pneumonia, and other medical conditions that require intensive care. We must celebrate small victories.
Gravity of Critical Illness
Critical illness is defined as a life-threatening illness. This is not meant to be patronizing or overstating the obvious, but rather to give a basic definition that reinforces the expectations of the great task at hand to reverse the condition. The body is thrown into disorder which puts it on the brink of death. Without support of some kind, the balance will surely tilt to the side of a bad outcome.
The medical treatments that are provided in the ICU are meant to support the body so that it can heal from whatever insult caused its critical illness. In the instance of severe pneumonia that requires a patient to be placed on mechanical ventilator support, a machine breathes for them. The machine settings are dialed in to provide a pressure or volume of air to expand the injured lung tissue and keep it open to normalize carbon dioxide removal and oxygen entry into the bloodstream as best as possible. This is often not an easy task and may require significantly abnormal pressures or volumes of air to be pushed into the lungs to allow the lungs to function adequately enough for the body to survive.
Importance of Following Trends
The benefit of having such a machine to assist with breathing is that there are objective numerical settings that can be trended over time. This trend allows a pediatric ICU team to identify the progress or decline of a child’s lung function. A child’s lung improvement is reflected in less pressure or volume of air delivered from the mechanical ventilator. This process can take days or weeks. It is difficult to predict how long it will take for the lungs to recover.
As it is difficult to anticipate the time of recovery for any critically ill child, trends need to be followed. Objective measurements of improvement can be very small. If one were to look over a day, improvement would be almost imperceptible. However, if one measured improvement in days or a week, the degree of improvement would be significantly greater and able to be appreciated.
Building Hope and Progress
As the degrees of improvement are often small and the progress forward may seem trivial, we must realize the bigger picture and celebrate small victories. In the pediatric ICU, these small victories build on each other to lead us to the ultimate goal…improvement of a child’s health. As with any endeavor in life, small victories translate into bigger victories. While the big victories may seem impossible to achieve with the initial assessment, it is the small victories that keep us hopeful and motivated enough to keep forging ahead with the greatest goal in mind. Thus, in the context of pediatric critical care or any arena of life, it becomes evident that the road to recovery or achievement is paved with these seemingly minor triumphs, underscoring the profound impact of perseverance and dedication in the face of adversity.
Can you share a personal story or anecdote about a small victory that made a big difference in the journey of overcoming adversity?