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'Comfort' Now Available to Caregivers of Ohio's Seriously-Ill Children

AKRON, Ohio, March 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Help is now just a phone call away for parents, pediatricians, home care and hospice nurses and other medical professionals caring for any child in Ohio with a life-threatening, chronic, rare or complex illness.

The Comfort Line is a medical advice and referral service provided by Akron Children's Hospital with the assistance of the Ohio Pediatric Palliative Care and End of Life Network (OPPEN).

Toll-free phone calls are accepted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-866-315-6327.

"We started the Comfort Line because we recognize that pediatric palliative care services are primarily located in the major metropolitan areas of the state and there are many families caring for infants, children and teens with serious and life-threatening conditions in rural areas throughout Ohio," said OPPEN founder Sarah Friebert, MD, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist and director of the Haslinger Family Pediatric Palliative Care Center at Akron Children's Hospital.

Dr. Friebert expects the Comfort Line to field questions related to pediatric pain and symptom management, chronic illnesses and end-of-life issues. The phone service will also be able to provide referrals to the nearest pediatric palliative care and hospice providers, community agencies and other resources.

Calls might concern a need for family support as a child's serious illness affects everyone in the family and even his or her community. Related services may include a psychologist or chaplain who can work with siblings, a social worker who can help parents with health insurance issues, or a home care nurse who can administer certain procedures at home, thus saving the family frequent trips to the hospital.

Pediatric palliative care, an emerging subspecialty in pediatric health care, focuses on managing symptoms and addressing the needs of the whole family, when a child is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease or chronic condition. Palliative care professionals can help coordinate care and assist with the psychosocial, emotional, spiritual and financial needs of the family.

Since Akron Children's began its pediatric palliative care program in 2002, Dr. Friebert and her team have cared for more than 800 infants, children and teens with serious medical issues. The team also assists families with a life-threatening prenatal diagnosis.

"Sometimes we like to explain pediatric palliative care by saying what it is not," said Dr. Friebert. "It is not about giving up on a child, losing hope or forgoing cure-directed care in order to receive comfort care. It's not one-size-fits-all medicine. We often work with families who have children with complex medical needs and need help with care coordination. For us, it's an honor and a privilege to work with these families."

Parents and caregivers with questions can call the Comfort Line, which connects to Ask Children's, a free parent information hotline staffed by trained pediatric nurses. The call with then be connected with an on-call pediatric palliative care physician or advanced practice nurse affiliated with OPPEN.

In addition to Akron Children's, OPPEN-members providing on-call staff for the Comfort Line include pediatric palliative care professionals from Cincinnati Children's Hospital and StarShine Hospice, Dayton Children's Hospital and Care and Comfort Program, Hospice of the Western Reserve, Nationwide Children's Hospital and Hospice, MetroHealth Medical Center, St. Vincent Mercy Children's Hospital, and Toledo Children's Hospital.

Over time, Dr. Friebert hopes to expand the hours of the Comfort Line to a 24/7 operation.

SOURCE Akron Children?s Hospital
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