And on this December day at New Hanover Regional Medical Center (NHRMC), the curly-headed five-year-old wears a pale blue gown and beats a small yellow drum with a red plastic hammer. Darriel "Junie" Cokeley Jr. is no ordinary boy. Circumstances find him surrounded by a highly specialized pediatric critical care team responsible for returning him to wellness.
"For most of his life he’s had a trach(eostomy) so he can breathe," explains sixty-two-year-old Martha Cokeley, Junie’s grandmother and primary caregiver. "He caught a bad, bad cold and with the thick mucous he couldn’t clear his airway to breathe. So we came here." - continued below
Meet Your New NHRMC Pediatric Intensivists and Hospitalists
"There’s really not another more exciting opportunity to do what I want to do with the brand new Women’s and Children’s Hospital. The need here for this service here is palpable, the excitement so real, and the commitment so obvious."
"The opening of the new PICU is an extraordinary opportunity to serve the children and families of southeastern North Carolina and beyond. I am proud to be a part of this very talented and highly committed team."
"Here" is New Hanover Regional’s new six-bed, Level II pediatric intensive care unit, or PICU, a place where critically ill children like Junie receive advanced pediatric care from highly specialized physicians, nurses and staff.
No longer will many of the region’s critically ill children need to be transferred out of the area for pediatric critical care.
No longer will families have to endure long separations while also facing the stress of their child’s illness. - continued below
Integral to the success of the new Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit are the region’s many pediatricians. Day in and day out they are on the front lines of caring for our region’s children, which is why their input into the making of the new PICU was crucial.
Below, pediatrician Gordon Coleman, MD, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics at New Hanover Regional Medical Center, expresses in his own words the impact of the new PICU and how, together with the larger pediatric community, it will change the lives of critically ill children for generations to come.
"I have worked as a pediatrician in Wilmington for the past 30 years. Without a doubt the building of and transition into the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Center represents one of the most exciting things that has happened in the realm of children’s healthcare in our area since the establishment of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the mid-1970s.
We now have the ability to provide comprehensive medical services to children in our region from birth to adulthood in one facility. From an expanded NICU to one of the finest pediatric in-patient wards to a state-of-the-art Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, nearly all the in-patient healthcare needs of our children and their families will be met in one place.
What’s more, the expansion and incorporation into the same building of the pediatric outpatient specialty clinics has allowed us to have centralized healthcare for our children in one location. It is apparent that healthcare for the children of southeastern North Carolina has moved strongly and forcibly into the 21st century. I am so excited to see this happening and delighted to be taking part in this wonderful advancement."
Gordon D. Coleman, MD Chairman, Department of Pediatrics New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit 5 Key Things to Know
Staffed 24/7 by physicians specially trained in pediatric critical care.
Many area children will no longer have to be transferred to other PICU facilities, the closest being more than two hours away.
Specially designed for family centered care to allow parents to play an essential direct role in their child’s care.
Life-saving equipment and supplies at hand to meet size-specific needs of children.
Advanced practice nurses at the bedside specialized in pediatric intensive care.
"It’s a blessing from above," says Martha, who, almost entirely deaf, relies on lip reading. "From Calabash where we live, we had to drive almost four hours to get him the care he needed - sometimes several times a year."
For Dr. David Adams, one of two pediatric intensivists in the PICU, Junie is exactly the kind of child the PICU was designed for.
"Junie represents the kind of chronically ill children that need specialized, advanced care in our region," said Dr. Adams, who cared for Junie. "When these kids get sick, they need complex care fast. With the opening of the new PICU, we can now provide that care right here at NHRMC."
With life-saving equipment that meets the unique needs of children, the PICU can accommodate a range of pediatric conditions in infants and children up to age 18. These may include trauma, severe asthma, infections, diabetes and serious surgery, to name just a few.
But technology is nothing without clinical expertise. That’s why the PICU is staffed around the clock by a team of pediatric intensivists, pediatric hospitalists and pediatric nurse practitioners. In addition, the PICU offers all-private rooms with sleep sofas, a family kitchen, living room and washer and dryer.
For pediatric hospitalist and NHRMC Director of Pediatrics Dr. Joseph Pino, who has been integral in the PICU’s planning, the new unit means a new era of caring for the region’s critically ill children.
"With the opening of this unit, we will be able to offer a higher level of care to our region’s sickest children," he said. "I can tell you that all of the physicians and staff here at the Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital are excited to be part of the growth of pediatric care, and they have worked long and hard to prepare for it."
Meanwhile, back in his bed, Junie takes a break from drumming, the last beats in perfect cadence with the chirps of a nearby life support monitor. Smiling, Junie lifts his hammer high and proud.
"Junie’s come a long way and been through a lot - that’s for sure," says his grandmother. "But in a place like this he’ll do just fine."
To learn more about the PICU, or the new Betty H. Cameron Women’s and Children’s Hospital, please visit: