An Alberta mother is recounting her experience arriving at a packed children’s hospital when her young daughter was in dire need of help.
Amanda Weger said it’s been a terrifying two weeks since she brought her daughter Avery into the Alberta Children’s Hospital, where the 23-month-old remains with RSV and the flu.
“We originally went to urgent care here in Airdrie and the parking lot was completely packed,” she said. “So, I decided to drive in to Children’s.”
A surge in respiratory illnesses in children has slammed the hospital – with wait times exceeding 12 hours.
With the hospital working at-capacity some days, Alberta Health Services set up a heated trailer outside as an overflow waiting room and paused respite care so staff from the children’s hospice can help at the hospital instead.
“It was scary, it was very scary,” Weger said. “I saw that trailer being unloaded and my heart just sunk, like, is that where we are?”
But, it makes sense, she added. When Weger brought Avery in, the waiting room had chairs lined up to the doors.
“When we got there it was, it was insane,” she said. “I think when I got there it was three and a half hours just to be triaged.”
Her heart dropped when she saw the line, she said. However, when a nurse came to help move them to another chair and noticed Avery’s condition, they were taken to the ICU right away.
Weger said she was shocked to find it full.
“The doctor had told me as well that, he’s like, ‘Today we’ve got 15 kids in here that are all the same as Avery or worse,'” she said. “And that’s scary right? You have an entire ICU unit completely full of kids on ventilators.
“All of these kids are in there because they have some kind of respiratory virus, and most of them – like Avery – had two or more.”
Despite being overworked, Weger said the staff has been wonderful. But she worries about the continuing pressure on a health-care system already strained from the pandemic.
Avery was born during COVID-19, spending time in the NICU during lockdowns. And that wasn’t as bad as what she’s watching her daughter live through now, Weger said.
“This is scarier to me because we’ve completely exhausted our health-care system now for almost three years, and now we’re getting hit with this huge wave of sick kids,” she said.
“It’s rough. I feel for all of us that are in there right now, because it is scary. The nurses are so overworked.”
Weger said Avery is improving, and the family is hoping to get her home in time for her birthday on Christmas Day. But, Avery still hasn’t been able to pass the tests she needs to be released.
“She can’t come home. And it’s just frustrating,” she said. “Like, I know she’s in the best place but we had three Christmases in a row that have been in hospital or trauma or chaos, so I was really hoping that this was going to be our first normal Christmas.”
The province says it’s working to build capacity, but is hopeful the surge of RSV and flu may soon subside.