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Tour of ICU Is Next Best Thing to Being Here

Welcome to the expanded intensive care unit at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital!” says Dr. Sheila McCullough, the clinical assistant professor who oversees the unit. 

Or rather she would say that if you were a referring veterinarian who scheduled a personal tour by calling the Small Animal Clinic at 217/333-5300. In March the ICU moved to facilities twice its previous size. We hope you’ll arrange to visit, but until you do here’s a quick tour on paper.

From the Dutch-door entryway, you can see the whole room at a glance, and that’s one of the great features of the new space. “Monitoring is a critical function of the ICU,” explains Dr. Mac, as she likes to be called. “We have some very sophisticated monitoring technology, but simply being able to see all the patients, even those in isolation, is important too. Monitoring pain and relieving it is a big part of what we do. Visual cues can be crucial to evaluating pain level.”

Dr. Mac practiced in the Chicago area for many years after earning a DVM at Illinois in 1987. She returned to the College about 4 years ago and recently became boarded in internal medicine. 
In the center of the room you see four spotless exam tables and a treatment island where food, fluids, bandages and other supplies are kept or prepared. A computer there allows quick access of patient records. 

[ICU action shot]
Veterinary technician Amy Drinnan and student Mike Buedel tend to one of the ICU patients.

As you step inside to the left, steer clear of the eye-level shelf that holds the SpaceLab EKG telemetry monitor, which displays heart readings transmitted remotely from the patient by a unit no bigger than a deck of cards; telemetry units allow patients more mobility. 
And did you notice the fresh flower arrangement on the shelf next to the monitor? That was sent by the grateful owner of a temperamental but on-the-mend cat.

Cages occupy both side walls, with room for 36 patients. Today 13 canine patients—ranging in size from a hypoglycemic 
Chihuahua puppy that is receiving intravenous fluids to a full-grown St. Bernard with a broken hip—are under the watchful care of certified veterinary technician Tara Pak and two fourth-year students. The ICU is staffed 24 hours a day by a CVT—most mornings it’s Alyssa Galligan and Lisa Hooser and most nights it’s Tom Brooks—as well as by students and a clinician on call. 
Every cage has ports for oxygen, suction, and electricity. A suction tube enters the chest of a wolfhound mix being treated for a pneumothorax. And no, that poodle doesn’t have his own TV. That’s just a cageside Spacelab monitor, measuring direct and indirect blood pressure, oxygen saturation of the blood, temperature, and end tidal CO2.

Step aside for the Husky just returning from an outdoor visit with his family. “I’m a strong believer in visitation for ICU patients, within limits,” says Dr. Mac. “A familiar face can be better than medicine for some animals.” Tara Pak confirms that every day owners visit their ailing pets in ICU.

At the back of the room, blankets and cushions keep the St. Bernard comfy in a large dog run. A newly installed tub and floor drain make washing the animals easy.

“Installing the drains and water where there wasn’t any to begin with was difficult,” recalls Larry Bonebrake, the project manager for the remodeling job done by University Operations and Maintenance. “The plans included a new washable ceiling and hose reels for power cleaning the floors and cages. Other specs changed as we went along: adding more oxygen stations and electrical outlets, installing a washer-dryer in the run area, painting the floors.” 

In the back corner opposite the St. Bernard, you can see the entire isolation room behind its glass wall. All supplies that might be needed—including special gloves and gowns—are in place, ready for the next suspected parvovirus or other highly contagious case.
Circling back to the right side of the door, you pass four oxygen cages and a crash cart for quickly getting emergency supplies to an unmoveable patient. 

[ICU cages]
The large, open room makes it easy to check on patients in the cages.

“The new room is a marvelous enhancement of our ability to care for animals. It’s also good for teaching, because now there’s enough room to hold rounds here,” reports Dr. Mac.

The ICU caseload has been increasing steadily for many years. Patients come from nearly every service in the clinic, including all pre- or post-surgical patients, those receiving any fluid therapy, critically ill oncology and cardiology patients, and many animals, like the Chihuahua, admitted through emergency service. 

Referring veterinarians, who may one day be sending a patient here, are invited to come see the new ICU for themselves.

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