Once a heart defect is suspected, the G.P. or Paediatrician will refer your child to a cardiac unit. Each unit is made up of a wide variety of staff, each with an important role in caring for your child.
Paediatric Cardiac Surgeon
This is the surgeon who will actually operate on your child. You will probably see him/her just before surgery, when he will explain what he intends to do, and just after the operation, when he will explain what has been done and how it will affect your child.
This is the doctor who arranges the overall care for your child. It is their task to discover what exactly is wrong with the heart. You will usually see the cardiologist at the clinic, to discuss your child’s condition, how to manage it, and the options open to you.
Registrar / House Doctor / House Officer
You may see one of these doctors at outpatients appointment instead of, or in conjuction with, the cardiologist. They assist in any investigations and also in the operating theatre.
Cardiac Liason Sister / Outreach Nurse
A liasion sister or outreach nurse may visit the family at home to do a ‘check-up’ on your child or simply to chat about your child’s condition, the operation, staying in hospital, etc. The liasion sister is there to help and support you though the hospital stay with any queries, problems or anxieties you may have.
Ward Sister / Charge Nurse
This is the senior nurse who is in charge of the hospital ward. If they are male they are called Charge Nurses, if female they are called Ward Sisters.
This doctor will see your child before surgery to ascertain his/her needs. They will give the anaesthetic prior to surgery, and monitor the child’s breathing and ventilation thoughout the operation.
ITU Doctor / Intensivist
This doctor will care for your child whilst they are in the Intensive Care Unit.
These nurses are specifically trained to care for and monitor your child constantly whilst they are in Intensive Care.
A physiotherapist will visit your child soon after surgery to encourage correct breathing and movement.
This is the person who will perform any necessary x-rays.
This person operates the heart / lung bypass machine during surgery.
ECG technician / Echo Technician
These are the people who perform non-invasive investigations on your child to aid the cardiologist in making the diagnosis of your child’s heart defect.
A social worker can help in many ways with financial and family problems.
Almost all religions are catered for in the hospital, and contacts are available through the ward staff.
This person uses play to help your child before the operation, and is there to help entertain and encourage them after surgery.
There are a wide range of nurses, administration staff and domestic workers also to be found in each unit. They are there to help, and all wear identity badges. If you are not sure what anybody is doing or saying, don’t be afraid to ask. You know your child best and all the team will value your views.
“Emily had been awake all night, crying and fretful. I knew she wasn’t 100% and I was also worried that being so tired she would take longer to recover. The nurses thought she was just out of her routine, the registrar said she was teething, and the surgeon was happy to go ahead. When the anaesthetist examined her, he though she was ‘snuffly’ and was not prepared to put her at any risk. The operation was cancelled and we were extremely relieved, even though we’d waited 16 months. Emily came home, had a temperature and a cold, cut a tooth and went back a fortnight later when everyone was happy with her.”