Ryan’s call for rule changed Renee Williams’ hospital treatment – and it’s being used more

Renee Williams lay unconscious and deteriorating in a ward of a busy public hospital in Brisbane with no doctor in sight.

23-year-old mum Tracie was “terrified”.

When Tracie had left Renee in the emergency department at Princess Alexandra Hospital with a raging fever, headache and backache the night before, her only child was extremely ill, but still awake and talking.

When she returned, Renee was “not even conscious” after being admitted to a cancer ward – the only bed available at the time – even though she didn’t have cancer.

For hours, Tracie said, nurses kept calling doctors for clear instructions on Renee’s treatment, only to be ignored.

“They weren’t returning their calls,” she said.

“No one was updating the chart, so the nurses had no idea what they were supposed to do.”

Tracie was on the verge of tears as she recalled being unable to wake Renee, who was suffering from pneumonia and a urinary tract infection, which developed into sepsis – a life-threatening reaction in September 2021.

Without prompt treatment, sepsis can quickly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death.

Tracie called Ryan’s Rule to get better medical care for Renee.(ABC News: Sarah Richards)

The concerned mum felt she had no choice but to call Ryan’s Rule – a process for Queenslanders who are concerned about the condition of a public hospital patient to receive an examination urgent.

“I just said to the nurse, ‘I don’t know what else to do. The only thing I can think of is call Ryan’s Rule, but I don’t want that to spill over. on you. It’s the doctors who are unresponsive, which prevents you from doing your job,” Tracie said.

The nursing staff supported Tracie’s decision to call Ryan’s Rule, telling her, “There’s nothing else you can do. We’re out of options.”

“I think I could have died without it”

Minutes after calling 13 HEALTH to enact Ryan’s Rule, a doctor arrived and soon after, a Ryan’s Rule nurse entered the ward.

Doctors and nurses crowd around Renee Williams' bed at Princess Alexandra Hospital after Ryan's rule appeal
Renee Williams at Princess Alexandra Hospital after Ryan’s Rule was activated.(Provided)

Tracie said Ryan’s rule nurse found Renee’s vital signs to be so concerning that a ‘code blue’ – a medical talk for a patient emergency – was called, triggering the sending of a rapid intervention team at his bedside.

“The room was flooded with people… at that point they started going through everything,” she said.

Renee was started on antibiotics and spent seven days in hospital before being discharged.

Nine months after that medical emergency, Tracie said it horrified her to think about what could have happened if she hadn’t called Ryan’s Rule.

Renee thinks Tracie’s decision saved her life.

“Once I found out what was going on, I was very glad Mom called Ryan’s Rule because I believe I could have died without it.”

Renee Williams at home with a guitar after recovering from sepsis.  Ryan's rule was to be called while in hospital.
Renee Williams has fully recovered from sepsis.(ABC News: Sarah Richards)

Huge Raising of Ryan’s Rule Called

Figures provided by Queensland Health show a growing number of people are activating Ryan’s Rule, described by the department’s executive director of patient safety and quality improvement, Kirstine Sketcher-Baker, as “a benchmark in patient-led safety”.

Ryan’s Rule was activated by patients or their loved ones around 1,600 times in 2021, an average of 31 times per week – a jump of 25% from 2020 and 145% from 2016.

The process has been used more than 7,300 times in public hospitals in Queensland since its introduction in 2013.

It was activated 1,271 times in 2019, 1,014 times in 2018, 840 times in 2017, and 654 times in 2016.

Two Queensland Health brochures explaining Ryan's Rule
Queensland Health has published pamphlets promoting Ryan’s rule.(ABC News: Janelle Miles)

Ms Sketcher-Baker described Ryan’s growing number of rule cases as a “really good thing”.

“What we’re really happy about is that more and more people seem to know about Ryan’s Rule,” she said.

“We are trying in every way possible to promote this.”

Pamphlets on Ryan’s Rule, which can be distributed at any time of the day or night, have been translated into 10 languages ​​other than English.

‘Prevention is better than cure’

Ryan’s rule was established following the death of Ryan Saunders from an undiagnosed strep infection, which led to toxic shock syndrome in 2007, just before his third birthday.

A smiling Ryan Saunders, who died of toxic shock syndrome in 2007, and is named after Ryan's rule
Ryan Saunders, who died of toxic shock syndrome in 2007.(Provided)

Ryan’s parents had raised concerns about his condition while he was in hospital and a coroner’s inquest found those treating him ‘did not detect and respond to the infection sufficiently fast”.

“That’s how the name Ryan’s Rule was born – as a legacy to a young boy whose life, in all likelihood, could have been saved if we had listened to his parents,” Ms Sketcher-Baker said.

She said the introduction of Ryan’s rule had “definitely” led to safer care for patients in public hospitals in Queensland.

“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Ms. Sketcher-Baker said.

“Families and carers often know the patients better than anyone and they can actually detect if there is any kind of deterioration in the patient and they are able to report it to the people concerned.

“I think the really important message for people is: do it fast. Do it as soon as you have a problem, because the sooner clinicians know about it, the sooner they can act and the better the outcome for the patient. patient. the patients.

“They should feel empowered to be able to talk to any clinician in the hospital about any concerns they have.”

Renee and Tracie hope that by telling their story it will make Queenslanders more aware of the Ryan Rule and that it doesn’t just apply to hospitalized children.

“You can use it anytime in life. It’s not just for kids,” Renee said.

“Prevention is better than cure.

Tracie added: “If anyone is thinking of calling them, if you’re ever in a position where you think it could benefit you, give them a call. Don’t be afraid. Just do it because it might make the difference between life and death for your loved one.”

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