World Para Swimming Champion Alexa Leary (below left) has made a triumphant return to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) to help launch the RBWH Foundation WeCU Family Care Program, an Australian first for an intensive care unit (ICU).
WeCU was developed by the RBWH Foundation in recognition of the immense stress families and next-of-kin endure when loved ones are acutely unwell or seriously injured and require critical medical care.
“I just wanted to say a big thanks to all the supporters for this because this is a big thing,” said Lex.
“I just want to cry my eyes out.”
Lex spent five months at RBWH, the first two weeks in a coma, following an horrific cycling accident in July 2021 which left her with severe brain injuries.
Joining Lex were her parents, Russell and Belinda, and fellow patient-family Mat, Bianca and Cienna Jones-Umina (above, centre).
Both families partnered with the RBWH Foundation to raise significant funds towards the $1.1 million WeCU Family Care program.
Mat and Bianca lost their 17-year-old son Nikias (below) in 2021 to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, a rare complication of the brain disorder.
“It was very traumatic as you can imagine,” said Bianca.
“We just thought if we can make families’ experiences in ICU just that little bit more comfortable and make them feel supported, then something good can come from our tragedy.”
The WeCU Family Care program operates 7-days a week and assists families to:
- navigate the ICU environment
- communicate with a loved one’s healthcare team
- source accommodation and access to the Patient Travel subsidy support.
The RBWH Foundation has also funded:
- renovation of the ICU waiting room and reception area
- development of a 24-hour communications portal providing remote access to a patient’s medical team
- a peer-to-peer support program for survivors of ICU
- patient-family support packs with essential items.
As one of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest trauma hospitals, RBWH ICU provides care to patients from as far afield as regional and remote Queensland, Northern New South Wales, Northern Territory, and the Pacific Rim in times of disaster.
For patient families travelling hundreds of kilometres, anxiety is compounded by additional difficulties such as finding accommodation, accessing transport subsidies and navigating the medical system.
“The RBWH Foundation is proud to facilitate the compassionate WeCU Family Care pilot program, co-created hand-in-hand with families like the Leary and Umina families,” said RBWH Foundation CEO Simone Garske.
“The WeCU Family Care program is a wonderful example of how the community can partner with the RBWH Foundation, to create life-changing projects which help RBWH go above and beyond.”
To support life-changing programs, such as WeCU, please donate today or call 1300 363 786.