Rob Cairns is no stranger to navigating the healthcare system and its many levels of care. Not once, but twice he has experienced major health events that could have resulted in admission to long-term care. Yet, with great determination and the right level of care at the right time, he's been able to transition from acute care to post-acute care facilities for rehabilitation and back home to living independently in the community.
Over 13 years ago, when setting up an at-home sound system, a surprise for his children, he fell and went headfirst into an entertainment center. Rob's life was forever changed. This accident resulted in him being quadriplegic, in his 30s, with young children. He questioned how he would manage and could play a role in his kid's life. However, with the right supports in the health care system, at the right time through home care, he was able to live independently and play an active role in his kid's lives.
In 2019, Rob was having difficulty breathing which progressed into something much more serious leading to admission at an acute care hospital in Ottawa. Rob was placed on a ventilator and transitioned from acute care to Bruyère's hospital where he could receive specialized complex medical care.
Bruyère has a dedicated program, caring for patients like Rob with long-term ventilation needs. In the early days of COVID-19 pandemic planning, Bruyère was able to increase the number of beds in this specialize care unit. This was done to relieve pressure on acute care partners in the region and help meet the growing demand for ICU beds, a tragic reality of treating patients with COVID-19. These additional beds meant that there was a space for Rob in Bruyère's specialized facility where he could receive the right level of care. It also meant that more patients like Rob could transition out of acute care, creating much needed space in acute care facilities.
Rob's story is one of how the system can work to support patients, exceed their expectations and take a divergent path, away from lengthy acute care hospitalization and long-term care and towards independent community living.
Based on Rob's condition, there was no expectation that he would leave a health care setting. But, he had different plans. His determination motivated the multi-disciplinary care team on the ventilator unit to think outside the box, developing aggressive care goals. Through these therapies, Rob started to gain strength. The team was then able to do what they once thought was unthinkable, they began to wean Rob from the ventilator. Starting with minutes and gradually increasing the amount of time to hours, and days, until, one day, Rob no longer required the ventilator and could once again return home to his independent lifestyle with his family.
Rob was incredibly motivated to gain independence and the care teams were inspired to help him reach this goal. This outcome may have been beyond everyone's expectations, Bruyère's teams had never been able to take anyone with Rob's level of complex needs off a ventilator, but it should not be seen as a one-off. This is an example of how all system players can, and should, continue to work together to support our patients and their goals to transition home.