Support Needed for New ICU Patient-families

Monday 7 March 2022

Help Us Reduce Trauma for Loved Ones of Intensive Care Patients

Alexa in the ICU with a RBWH nurse

A parent’s first instinct when their child is injured is to wrap them tight with love and reassurance. When Alexa Leary was critically injured and rushed to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) Intensive Care Unit (ICU), her traumatised family responded by throwing their arms around the entire unit and other ICU Patient-Families. 

The Leary’s enormous empathy, combined with the experience of other ICU patient-families, has helped craft WeCU, a joint project between RBWH and the Foundation which will provide an all-encompassing support program for patient families in ICU.

Alexa with her mum and dad in recovery, wearing Move for Lex merchandise

In late 2021, planning for a two-year WeCU pilot program began in consultation with hospital administration, clinicians, nurses, social workers, patients and patient families.

“RBWH does extraordinary work for patients and everyone that RBWH Foundation has spoken to – patients and patient families – cannot speak highly enough of the clinical staff, social workers and nursing staff,” said RBWH Foundation Board Member and WeCU Patron Leona Murphy.

“What patient families say they do need, is guidance through this very difficult stage of treatment, focusing on emotional, physical and financial support.”

With the assistance of public funding, the pilot will focus on the following three key areas:

  • COMFORT: The family waiting area outside of the ICU will be refurnished, creating a warmer and more inviting space.
  • CARE: An RBWH ICU Concierge Service will become the families’ ‘go-to’ for advice, information and to source accommodation, parking, food and other support.
  • SUPPORT: A two-way, technology-based solution will be set up to improve communication between families and medical personnel. With an iPad at each ICU bed, families can connect with patients via FaceTime. The Foundation has committed establishment funding of $1m over the next two years.

Move For Lex: The Extraordinary Power of Love

In July 2021, junior national triathlete champion Alexa ‘Lex’ Leary was on a routine training ride when she clipped a teammate’s wheel and was thrown at high speed with catastrophic results. She suffered serious brain injuries and her life changed in a moment.

Lex was airlifted to Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) where she underwent emergency surgery with some of the State’s leading neurosurgeons. Lex would remain in a coma in ICU for a fortnight while her parents, Russell and Belinda, kept a constant vigil.

Despite their personal anguish and turmoil, the couple could see a need that fell outside the excellent medical and patient care being provided. It was a need felt by families, rather than patients alone. They were struck by the despair of patients and loved ones separated by distance; the confusion of families navigating a strange new medical world and language; the financial and emotional distress sourcing accommodation and basic needs.

Within weeks of Alexa arriving at RBWH, the Learys partnered with the RBWH Foundation to launch the inspirational fundraising campaign,

In November 2021, the first $50,000 raised by was donated to the RBWH Neurosurgery ward for additional equipment. Focus has now turned to raising funds for WeCU.

Read the Full Impact Report