Comic helps children know what to expect when visiting intensive care
Published on 6 April 2023
Dundee comic artists and healthcare professionals have come together to create an informative guide aiming to help children and young people navigate intensive care
Visiting ICU was produced by a team of specialist healthcare professionals, comic creators and academics across the University of Dundee and NHS Tayside. The aim of the 24-page publication is to make trips to an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) less intimidating to young people who are visiting their loved ones.
The public information comic follows a young girl, Eva, as she visits her mum in intensive care for the first time. The story continues as she meets another young person, a regular visitor to intensive care, who shares his intensive care journey and the experiences that may be encountered.
The aim is to gently introduce the medicines, machinery and potential reactions from patients and healthcare professionals in the unit.
Mayra Crowe, from the University’s School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, who coordinated the project, said, “Intensive care can be overwhelming even for visiting adults, so you can only imagine how young people find the experience, especially during an already challenging time.
“Comics are a fantastic medium to talk about complex information and to convey messages in a very powerful way. Visiting ICU will help inform children in a gentle way and prepare them for something that is difficult for anyone. We hope this comic is a way of making that moment even a little easier.
“Thank you to all involved, including Elliot Balson, comic artist. It has been a pleasure to work with colleagues at Dundee and in NHS Tayside and create something that will hopefully have a positive effect.”
Mayra has coordinated many other comics projects, including a comic that encourages organ donation. That publication served as inspiration for the Visiting ICU comic, with Dr Pauline Austin, Consultant in Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine from NHS Tayside, keen to utilise the medium to create a visual informative guide for children visiting relatives in ICU. It is hoped that the comic will be used in hospitals and schools across Scotland and eventually throughout the UK.
Dr Austin said, "Admission to intensive care is a life changing event, not only for the individual but also for their family. Critical illness is often a frightening and uncertain time for all those affected. It can be particularly challenging for children and young people to understand what is happening and the emotions they are feeling. It can also be very hard for parents and carers to explain what intensive or critical care actually is.
“I hope young readers find Eva’s story helpful in supporting them during what can be a very difficult and emotional time.”
Visiting ICU was funded by NHS Tayside’s Organ Donation Committee and endorsed by the Scottish Intensive Care Society.
Dr Pauline Austin, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine and Anaesthesia
Fiona Duncan, Intensive Care Recovery Service Nurse
Dr Anna J Brewster, Anaesthetic Registrar
Elliot Balson, comics creator
Mayra Crowe, Senior Lecturer and Spanish Organiser at the University
Becca Emslie, digital artist
Dawn McKay, charge nurse within the Intensive Care Unit
Professor Christopher Murray, Chair of Comics Studies at the University
Dr Megan Sinclair, English Communications and Comics Studies lecturer
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