The 5th International Tracheostomy Symposium last week focused on safety and care

Professor Sam Berkovic

Sally Messer and her mother, Jenny

Austin Health, the Global Tracheostomy Collaborative and the Royal Children's Hospital hosted the 5th International Tracheostomy Symposium last Friday. 

More than 300 patients, family and health professionals attended, with delegates from around the world including across Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK and Ireland, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Qatar.

The meeting highlighted significant improvements in the safety, quality and efficiency of care for tracheostomy patients.  There are approximately 250,000 patients globally with tracheostomies, which are inserted into the necks in adults and children to help with breathing and airway problems.

Austin Health's Tracheostomy Review and Management Service Manager, Tanis Cameron, said every aspect of the meeting created a meaningful, rich and energised day.

"It was a resounding success with clinicians, researchers, patients and families from around the world collaborating to ensure safer tracheostomy everywhere," she said.

Keynote speaker, Austin Health Director of ICU Research, Professor Rinaldo Bellomo, stressed the importance of teamwork in tracheostomy care to assist patient recovery and rehabilitation in his keynote address.  During the scientific sessions, Austin Health staff Christine Knee Chong and Jack Ross placed 1st and 2nd for best poster and Charissa Zaga placed 2nd for best oral presentation.


Getting to know Angie and Manon

Tanis Cameron, Sue and Gerard Stevenson and Dr Brendan McGrath

Austin Health patients Gerard Stevenson and his wife Sue, Daisy Xu and her father Geoff, Sally Messer and her mother Jenny, Colin Gray and his wife Jenny, Peter Stickney and his wife Sue all shared their personal stories with attendees.

Gerard and Sue introduced  keynote speaker Dr Brendan McGrath, UK Lead of the National Tracheostomy Safety Project .  Gerard met Dr McGrath during the 2014 3rd ITS in Melbourne. 

Gerard is a businessman and author and is fully ventilated via tracheostomy since suffering a high level spinal cord injury in 2014.  He discussed the importance of finding community, purpose and striving to stay positive in the face of adversity, themes which he uses to write in his blog, Stand on the Shoulders of Giants.

Daisy was in a motorbike accident in Vietnam in 2017 and broke her spine, becoming quadriplegic.   Within a month of her arrival at Austin Health after her accident, she was able to speak again and was out of ICU and in the Austin Spinal Unit.  With the assistance of music therapist, Dr Jeanette Tamplin, she has learnt to sing and performed live at Friday's symposium. Daisy also writes a blog called Mad Grit.

Tanis said Daisy showed it was possible to live life to its fullest regardless of physical limitations.

"She and Jeanette shone on stage and created a tremendous creative energy," she said.