Most people who meet six-year-old Camille are captivated by her vibrant, precocious personality. They hear her talk about superheroes and unicorns, watch her play with her dog Lana, and jump up and down with glee when she is excited. Many do not know that she was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and experienced a stroke just two years ago. Camille needed lifesaving care to survive and expert rehabilitation to, as she says, “get my superpowers back.”
Family’s Worst Nightmare
During the winter of 2020, just after she turned four, Camille suffered a series of unexplained fevers. Her parents, Jen and Aaron, kept in touch with her pediatrician, who advised them to watch closely for other symptoms. When her fevers continued and she experienced sudden weight loss, they grew more concerned.
Aaron was with Camille on January 6 when she became extremely fatigued and lethargic. Jen was on the commuter train home from work at a scientific institute in Cambridge. She received a text from Aaron to meet them at the Fitchburg train stop. From there, they headed down Route 2 to Emerson’s emergency department (ED).
“We were new to the area and did not know the hospitals. Based on the suggestion of friends, we decided to go to Emerson. That was our first piece of good fortune during Camille’s medical crisis,” explains Jen.
Lifesaving Care in the Emergency Department
As soon as Jen and Aaron carried Camille into the emergency department, they were surrounded by people in white coats. “They could tell how seriously ill she was. Within seconds, they had her on a stretcher and were performing lifesaving care,” reflects Aaron. “This is one reason we are so grateful to Emerson. We knew our child was sick, but we did not know what we were dealing with. The Emerson ED team was there for us.” Inger Marie Pu, MD, FAAP, director of pediatric hospitalist medicine at Emerson (pictured at right), and Rebecca Rosenstein, MD, pediatric hospitalist, were two of the doctors who treated Camille that night.
“Emerson was one of the first hospitals in the state with a dedicated pediatric hospitalist team. We hire physicians from some of the country’s best pediatric training programs. With this level of experience, plus our expert emergency physicians and staff, most children receive all the care they need right here. For those who require a higher level of care, we have strong clinical relationships with acute care hospitals, including the team at Mass General for Children,” says Dr. Pu.
What She Needed to Recover
The care Camille experienced at Emerson and the hospital’s relationship with Mass General were exactly what she needed. Dr. Pu and the ED team quickly assessed Camille and diagnosed her with suspected bacterial meningitis and a severe brain infection.
“Emerson did everything perfectly. They stabilized her then MedFlighted her to Mass General. The meningitis caused brain swelling and stroke. Camille had two brain surgeries and began to recover in the pediatric intensive care unit,” Jen says. “She lost her ability to walk, talk, and remember. The ability to express herself was severely affected.”
After weeks at Mass General, Camille graduated to inpatient rehabilitation at Spaulding. In another twist of good fortune, Emerson has close clinical affiliations with the pediatric unit at Spaulding, where several of its pediatric hospitalists also work. During many weeks of inpatient rehabilitation, Camille began to “regain her powers.” She learned to walk with assistance and began to speak.
“Spaulding discharged her home under strict orders that she receive intensive outpatient therapies,” explains Aaron. “The clinical team told us, ‘She needs Emerson-level care.’ Hearing this was a huge relief because Emerson’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies is near our home, and the collaboration with Spaulding was critical for Camille’s continued recovery.”
Since leaving Spaulding, Camille has had intense physical, speech, and occupational therapy sessions with Emerson clinicians: Mary Evans, supervisor of pediatric rehabilitation; Sydney Barnes, pediatric occupational therapist; and Claire Borowski, pediatric speech therapist.
The therapists work with Camille to regain skills she lost due to the stroke and help her acquire new, age-level skills. Her therapy sessions include activities that Camille needs to thrive with her peers in kindergarten, including eating and dressing, kicking a ball, cutting with scissors, drawing, and telling stories. None of these skills were possible when Camille first returned home. Today, she uses them often.
With hard work and determination, Camille’s “powers” have mostly returned. She is a happy kindergartner who joyfully proclaims when she talks about her recovery, “I am getting my superpowers back at Emerson!”
Expert Pediatric Care at Emerson
When a child is in Emerson’s emergency department or hospitalized, they are evaluated by an experienced pediatric hospitalist who is on site 24/7 to monitor and coordinate every aspect of their care.
Emerson’s pediatric hospitalists are doctors who are board-certified in pediatrics and completed training at some of the country’s top pediatric hospitals. Pediatric hospitalists serve as the attending doctor throughout a child’s stay at Emerson, working closely with emergency medicine, medical, and surgical specialists to ensure each young patient receives expert and compassionate care.