PROVO — Ten-year-old Riley Ogden is never very far from needing a stay in an intensive care unit, due to his spinal muscular atrophy.
"It's inevitable he's going to need the ICU, he's going to need these services," says his mother, Rebecah Ogden. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."
The Ogdens' go-to for their intensive care trips has been Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, about one hour away from their home in Saratoga Springs.
So when the family recently learned a new pediatric intensive care unit was being installed at the Utah Valley Hospital in Provo, "It felt like a burden — like a huge weight — was taken off of me, (knowing) finally he can get the care that he needs closer to my house," Ogden said.
The new, six-bed unit opened at the hospital Monday and is ready to serve patients. It will take some of the burden of care off of fellow Intermountain Healthcare facility Primary Children's Hospital, said Dr. Shad Outsen, the medical director of the new unit.
"In the winter (especially), Primary Children's is extremely full" due to an increase in serious respiratory infections, said Outsen, a pediatric intensive care physician for Intermountain.
"They're landlocked — there's not a whole lot of ground around them to build new space. … Seeing the kind of growth we're having in Utah County, they decided to expand here."
Riley, who started fifth grade Monday, is unable to walk, stand up or sit up on his own power due to his spinal muscular atrophy, and the condition also complicates his eating, swallowing and breathing. Due to his severe breathing difficulties, when he catches what for most people is a minor illness such as a cold, he spends as much as four to six weeks in intensive care for "at least four or five times a year," his mother said.
Thanks to the new center in Provo, she said, "I feel like I can just be there and be more present in his care, rather than (saying) 'I just can't make it up there today.'"
"It's a huge stress to be so far away from him when he's in the hospital," Ogden said. "To start getting these kinds of services down this way, it's just going to be huge for us."
A pediatric intensive care unit, often called a PICU, also became available last year at Timpanogos Regional Hospital in Orem. Still, "for anybody in Utah County whose isn't covered (by insurance) at Timpanogos, they've had to go to Salt Lake City," Outsen said.
"Just the proximity to home is one of the biggest benefits. It's very stressful to have a child in an ICU, and to be an hour closer just makes it all that easier, obviously, for our families here in Utah County," Outsen said.
With an added option so much closer to where Riley lives, it's likely his family will seek intensive care unit treatment sooner, instead of having to try to wait it out at home as long as we can," Rebecah Ogden said.
Intermountain spokeswoman Janet Frank explained in a release that the pediatric intensive care unit is the ideal setting for the use of "artificial support devices such as breathing machines to treat children with life-threatening conditions such as pneumonia or shock."
"Children with chronic respiratory diseases, including those with artificial tubes known as tracheostomy tubes, can now also be cared for at Utah Valley (Hospital) when they need to be hospitalized," Frank wrote.
Physicians at the new unit all come from Primary Children's Hospital's intensive care unit, and include pediatric specialists in cardiology, infectious disease, surgery and more. Outsen said each of the nurses at the debuting unit are new to a pediatric intensive care setting, aside from their recent training at Primary Children's Hospital in preparation for their roles.
The rooms in the new unit will be "equipped with telehealth monitoring that includes two-way audio and video feeds," which means "local caregivers will have support from additional PICU-trained nurses and physicians at Primary Children's at a moment's notice," Frank explained.
"It's really just an extra set of eyes," Outsen said. "We're excited about it, just from a safety standpoint."
The build up to the unit's opening Monday took "several years" of planning, Outsen said. Eventually, it could increase its patient capacity, he said.
"We would love to expand it. It will be based on volumes. During the busy (winter) season, Primary Children's sometimes has to put two patients in one bed space, and I wouldn't be surprised ... if we have to do that as well," Outsen said.