Most people know Angelica Hale as the tenacious young lady who won hearts with her incredible performances on America’s Got Talent in 2017. But before she became the youngest runner-up in the show’s history, she was a severely ill four-year-old with sepsis and kidney failure.
Angelica, her family, and her care team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston—led by Toni M. Petrillo, MD, FAAP, FCCM, medical director of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and Jana A. Stockwell, MD, FAAP, FCCM, director of the Division of Critical Care Medicine—received the Society of Critical Care Medicine’s (SCCM) ICU Heroes Award during the 49th annual Critical Care Congress.
The award recognizes that patients and families are an integral part of ICU care and that it takes a multiprofessional team to provide the best care to patients. The award is given to both a pediatric and an adult ICU.
Angelica’s recovery is a testament not only to her strength and the unwavering support of her parents, who worked closely with Angelica’s healthcare team, but to the importance of a fully integrated and multiprofessional team in caring for patients in the ICU.
“It takes a village to treat a child this sick, and the entire team—nurses, intensivists, surgeons, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, the transport team, and many more—were an integral part of getting Angelica home,” Dr. Stockwell said. “When we first met her, she was a very ill child and so to see her flourishing now is incredibly rewarding.”
In 2012 when Angelica Hale was four years old, she became critically ill with severe pneumonia and sepsis from a pneumococcal bacterial infection. She needed lifesaving medical intervention and was transported from an outside children’s hospital to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston where she was started on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) in the PICU. Angelica’s septic shock resulted in multiple organ failure, including her kidneys, which did not recover. Hemodialysis and, later, peritoneal dialysis became her new normal.
The Surviving Sepsis Campaign International Guidelines for the Management of Septic Shock and Sepsis-Associated Organ Dysfunction in Children is available now at survivingsepsis.org
Throughout her time in the PICU, Angelica’s family participated in daily rounds, during which the team of physicians, bedside nurses, respiratory therapists, ECMO specialists, pharmacists, and nutritionists all played significant roles. This experience can be incredibly overwhelming for patients and their families but Angelica’s parents participated each day. “Angelica’s family is incredible, and having that kind of support is so important,” Dr. Petrillo said.
After 80 days in the hospital, Angelica went home but her life was forever changed. After a year and a half of dialysis, on September 13, 2013, Angelica received a kidney transplant from her mother. Four years later, the once critically ill four-year-old who loved to sing became a sensation who at the age of nine impressed the nation with her singing and infectious spirit.
When Angelica competed on America’s Got Talent, no group of people cheered more loudly than those who cared for her in the PICU at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. In addition to pursuing her career, Angelica is a celebrity advocate for the Sepsis Alliance and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as well as an ambassador of the National Kidney Foundation.
Applications for the ICU Heroes Award are due August 1, 2020.