Doctors Use Telehealth to Save Little Girl's Life

When Annie Nichols slipped and hit her head in the garage, her parents, Kelsey and Billy, didn’t think much of it. “It was a bad fall,” Billy said. “She cried, but it wasn’t the worst thing you’ve ever heard.” However, later that day, the four-year-old started to scream in pain, and her parents knew it was worse than they had originally thought.

Her parents rushed her to Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital in Murrells Inlet, where she had to be placed on a breathing machine to hold her airway open. The emergency team in Murrells Inlet connected through telehealth with the pediatric ICU team at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) hospital in Charleston.

By working together to assess Annie’s situation, the doctors stabilized her brain’s swelling, so that she could fly to MUSC for emergency surgery. Within eight minutes of landing in Charleston, surgeons removed the blood from Annie’s brain. “That was one of the things that saved Annie’s life,” Billy said. “If she had been flown there, and had not been seen by the MUSC doctors, she would’ve had to go back through the ER, been evaluated by their team, and then gone into surgery.”

Dr. David McSwain, the director of MUSC’s Pediatric Critical Care telehealth program, says Annie’s story is a perfect example of how telehealth can improve patient care in the most critical moments. “[Annie] is the type of patient that we built this program for,” McSwain said.