Sadie Elizabeth Abel was born to a loving family on December 17, 2006. Unfortunately, a few short hours after birth, it was discovered she had a Group B Streptococcal blood infection known as sepsis. Group B Strep in fact remains the most common cause of newborn early-onset sepsis. In Sadie’s case, she became critically ill requiring a heart-lung bypass machine, known as ECMO. Despite all of the heroic efforts, she died when she was just three days old.

During this time of extreme grief and sorrow for Sadie’s family and for all of the many staff members at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, an unbreakable bond was formed. Her parents marveled at the incredible teamwork it took to try and save their small baby, particularly regarding the large ECMO machine and all of its complexities.

After Sadie’s death, her parents approached team members who had cared for their daughter and inquired how they could help PICU team members, particularly those in training or early in their careers, to learn to work together in such critical situations as they had witnessed, not only for the benefit of health care workers working so closely to save critically ill children, but also for the families and patients who are directly impacted by these amazing collaborations.

And so, Sadie’s Gift and the Sadie Elizabeth Abel Simulation Boot Camp for PICU Fellows was born. Through the tireless efforts of Sadie’s parents and healthcare provider team members over a 10-year period, tremendous awareness regarding the benefits of simulation training as well as the costs it takes to develop and maintain these educational forums, allowed for the inaugural boot camp to be held in 2007 at the Johns Hopkins Medicine Simulation Center where PICU fellows from all over the country were amazed by all they learned and grateful for the new colleagues they met. Each subsequent year, this simulation boot camp trained several PICU fellows, ultimately expanding to a world-wide impact and each year, fellows said the camp was some of the best learning experiences they had ever had.

In this simulation program, participants will learn advanced techniques for managing the most critically ill children, such as instituting ECMO, that very same heart-lung bypass machine used for Sadie, in addition to respiratory and cardiac simulations for the advanced learner. Participants also learn behavioral techniques such as leadership and communication with families. All of these opportunities to practice and experience such critical events during simulated sessions may help providers implement these skills more efficiently and quickly in real-life situations, as well as provide guidance for enhanced communication with families during such critical and emotional times.

We are so grateful for the partnership and life-long friendships with the Abels. Sadie’s legacy lives on through all of the fellows who have experienced and all who will experience the incredible simulation boot camp, all born from the love of a little girl named Sadie.

Tribute written by Kristen McMillan Nelson, MD who cared for Sadie and founded the Sadie Abel Boot Camp