University of Missouri

Breakfast Club

Family makes lasting connection with ICU team after near-death experience
Breakfast Club

Audie Ruffel, RN, accepts doughnuts from former patient Maya Quattrocchi, 8, of Columbia, during a visit to MU Children's Hospital in March 2016.

W‭‭‭hen she steps onto the Pediatric ‭Intensive Care Unit at MU Children’s ‭Hospital, Maya Quattrocchi is among ‭friends. And it’s not just because she’s ‭carrying two dozen doughnuts each time she visits.

The 8-year-old Columbia girl spent nearly ‭two months in the unit after a March 2014 ‭automobile accident. During that time, ‭she developed lasting relationships with ‭members of the care team who helped her recover from multiple traumatic injuries.

‭The story of her care and remarkable ‭recovery is considered a shining example ‭of how an intensive care unit should serve ‭patients and was recognized in February 2016 with the ICU Heroes award from the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

‭Each Saturday since her discharge, Maya ‭has visited the unit to thank “the angels”‭ — the health professionals who were there ‭when she needed them most.

‭“We come here every week to feed the ‭angels,” Maya said. “I love coming here.”

Each week, those same health professionals who cared for Maya marvel ‭at her recovery and are reminded why they ‭chose careers in health care.

‭“In those visits she brings doughnuts ‭to the entire unit and tells us all about ‭her Barbie doll collection,” said Abdallah ‭Dalabih, MD, the pediatric critical care ‭physician who nominated Maya, her family and the care team for the award. “In her first visits, she had a significant limp. We were ‭able to witness this changing to running in the hallways of the PICU and jumping to ‭give high-fives and hugs to her nurses ‭and doctors.”

From cardiac arrest to skipping outside

‭Maya was run over by a vehicle on March 30, 2014, when she was 6 years old. She was rushed to MU Health Care’s ‭Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, Trauma Center ‭with multiple bone fractures and injuries to ‭her heart, lungs, esophagus, liver and kidney. She received multiple blood transfusions and ‭underwent surgery to stanch severe blood ‭loss. After she was stabilized, Maya was ‭transferred to the MU Children’s Hospital ‭Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the sickest, Maya was a 9. For the first ‭two weeks, we didn’t have a lot of positive news, and we didn’t know if she would make it.” ‭Venkataraman Ramachandran, MD

‭Upon arrival at the PICU, Maya went into ‭cardiac arrest. Her heart function returned ‭after brief CPR, but this was just the beginning of what doctors called a “rough” ‭two months.

‭Venkataraman Ramachandran, MD, a ‭pediatric surgeon at MU Health Care, said ‭he was unsure whether Maya would survive ‭her injuries.

‭“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the sickest, she was a 9,” he said. “For the first ‭two weeks, we didn’t have a lot of positive news, and we didn’t know if she would make it.”

‭Ramachandran said the care Maya ‭received in the Pediatric Intensive Care ‭Unit was a team effort and was built on the standards instituted by Frank L. Mitchell Jr., MD, a forefather of modern trauma care at ‭MU. They are regularly refined by trauma ‭surgeons at MU Health Care today.

‭“One person cannot do this,” he said, ‭noting that dozens of people contributed to ‭Maya’s care and rehabilitation.

Maya breathed with the assistance of a ventilator for four weeks, with the final two ‭on minimal sedation, before receiving a ‭tracheostomy. All told, she underwent more than 40 procedures during her 59 days in ‭the unit.

‭Ramachandran, whom Maya calls “Uncle ‭Ram,” performed more than 30 of Maya’s procedures. He said hi‭young patient’s personality ‭shined through during her time at the PICU.

‭“She was always bubbly and outgoing, and ‭that’s what kept her going,” he said.

‭Audi Ruffel, RN, one of the nurses who cared for Maya, was on the receiving end ‭of several hugs and high-fives during a recent visit. Ruffel said the care team, which ‭numbered more than a dozen, did well, but ‭the outcome might not have been the same with a different patient.

‭“We provided the care, but it was really ‭Maya who did the hard work,” she said. ‭“Maya always exceeded our expectations.”

Heroes among us

Care team members with Maya

‭Along with her family, Maya ‭Quattrocchi, 8, the survivor of a‭ near-fatal accident, received the ICU ‭Heroes award on Feb. 21, in Orlando, Florida, with hospital staff members during the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s Critical Care Conference.

‭Maya’s cheering section in Orlando ‭included, from left: Mary Allemang,‭RN, Audie Ruffel, RN, Sarah ‭Niedergerke, RN, FNP, Allison Kemble,social worker, and Erin Heath, RN.

‭Maya’s family traveled to Orlando, Florida, in February to receive the ICU Heroes award with hospital staff members. During the awards ceremony, which was part of the Society of Critical Care‭ Medicine’s Critical Care Conference, Maya‭strode onto the stage confidently and gave ‭the presenter a high-five before her parents‭and caregivers joined her. Maya and the ‭ICU team leader were awarded “ICU hero”‭medals as well as plaques.

“There were hundreds and ‭hundreds of doctors in the audience,” Frank Quattrocchi said.‭ “She did great; I was bawling like ‭a baby.”

Frank said his daughter loved the trip to ‭Orlando, especially getting to see all of her ‭friends from MU Children’s Hospital and ‭getting to eat alligator for the first time.

Maya is like many other girls her age; ‭she loves to dance, play with her Barbie dolls and watch movies. She’s an above-average ‭student and attends school full time. The ‭only visible signs of her ordeal are a few ‭scars.

‭When Maya describes her long hospital ‭stay, she likens it to a hotel where she watched movies and made new friends. She ‭has no fear of the hospital and looks forward ‭to bringing doughnuts to “the angels” every ‭Saturday.

‭“I love it,” she said of the visits. ‭

Carroll King, MD, marveled as she ‭watched Maya skip around the unit during ‭a visit in March. King was one of Maya’s doctors when she was a patient in the PICU.

‭“It’s amazing,” King said. “You can’t even tell she was severely injured. Maya is our‭totem for hope. When things are bad, we think of Maya.”