Unforgettable: Don’t Forget the Bubbles 2017 (#DFTB17) with Kat Gridley & St.Emlyn’s

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes


My name is Katherine Gridley and as a Brisbane local and emergency registrar with a paeds interest, I jumped at the chance to talk about one of the latest events on the medical conference calendar, held in my own home town!

Brisbane, Queensland is renowned for its sunny climate, thriving cafe culture and friendly locals – and it can now add “home to one of Australia’s best paediatric conferences” to the list.

The inaugural Don’t Forget the Bubbles conference (DFTB17) was the much-awaited brainchild of the paediatric team behind the Don’t Forget the Bubbles blog. Held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, it certainly lived up to expectations! Based on a similar format to SMACC, the three day conference incorporated a mixture of different streams as concurrent sessions, as well as large group lectures and workshops, with the focus on engaging and vibrant speakers with a passion for all variety of paediatric care.

Day 1: Bubbles, bronchiolitis and being ‘not okay’

You know you’re at a paediatric conference when the registration pack for delegates includes a bubble blowing kit and fidget spinners, there are clown doctors roaming the venue, and the trade exhibition includes a giant version of jenga, tic tac toe and connector 4…

After a welcome to country, the first DFTB17 was off to a flying start with compassion legend Mary Freer (from The Compassion Lab fame) discussing how something as simple as compassion can help to create the changes we wish to see in healthcare. Midwife Garbeille Quilliam followed, with her incredible story of the development of Queensland’s first children’s hospice Hummingbird House, from the initial vision to sustainability plans for the future. Surgeon Ross Fisher finished the all-star line up with a presentation in typical @ffolliet style, on striving for excellence in paediatric care (and why perfect is the enemy of good).

Next were the first streams of concurrent sessions on the use of internet and social media in clinical practice and teaching; C spine injuries, head injuries and bronchiolitis by the PREDICT group; and all things neonatal (with the neonatal resus proving incredibly popular with standing room only).


Afternoon concurrent sessions included paediatrics on an international scale (including Nat Thurtle on Syria and Kat Evans on South Africa); as well as airways, asthma and inhaled foreign bodies with the likes of Eric Levi; and a stream on self-care and supervision skills.

If the day wasn’t already far exceeding expectations, then the final group sessions knock this well and truly out of the park. Andrew Tagg’s “The Road Not Taken” proved to be one of the most vulnerable, beautiful, heartbreaking and inspiring presentations on his own battle with depression, and was easily a highlight of the conference (http://dontforgetthebubbles.com/threroadnottaken/). Liz Crowe followed on a lighter and typically exuberant note with her insightful take on paediatric resilience, and how we can help to foster this in our own children and patients. The formal program concluded with Fiona Reilly’s journey in medicine and writing, illustrating that the road less travelled can actually be the most exciting one.


Social: The welcome reception held at the convention centre was a casual affair with wine and canapes, an excellent way to unwind with colleagues after such a stimulating first day of the conference.

Day 2: Simulation, sedation and stimulating conversation  

Guests lucky enough to secure a spot in the ultrasound masterclass were treated to an hour and a half of paediatric sonography, useful for those in rural and remote Australia just as much as those working in the major tertiary centres.

Day 2 formally started with Sarah McNab on the judicious use of IV fluid in children, the topic of her PhD and one that proved to stimulate flurries of conversation for some time afterwards. Next was Damian Roland on getting the wrong answer from the right research, followed by FACEM and alcohol researcher Diana Egerton-Warburton on the challenges of facing and discussing drug and alcohol related harm when adolescents present to emergency departments.

As with Day 1, some of the concurrents in Day 2 proved to be so popular that guests were spilling over into standing room into the corridors, a real testament to the speakers involved. “A person’s a person no matter how small” involved a discussion on diagnostic reasoning and patient feedback, before Ian Summers and his young son Callum did the almost unthinkable: a live simulation on stage, using a paediatric emergency physician and a child actor, in front of an audience, to illustrate paediatric communication skills (and it was clear to say, Callum may have stolen the show). There was also a retrieval stream, and a crowded house for the stream on ft for purpose medication in procedural sedation, the sneaky signs of paediatric sepsis and the use of adenosine in paeds SVT (and what potential dangers lurk beneath).

Afternoon concurrents included a panel of EBM experts, a plethora of infectious diseases (including TB, RHD and scabies, which left everyone slightly itchy) and rural paediatrics, with another standout heartfelt presentation, this time by foamed veteran Casey Parker (http://broomedocs.com/2017/08/fatherhood-faeces-fear-rural-doctors-story/).

Day 2 finished with DFTB’s Henry Goldstein on accepting failure and thriving as a result, and was followed by the legendary Norman Swan and his unusual path in both medicine and journalism (with more than a few whistle-blowing moments along the way). Sarah Dalton finished the session with a futuristic if not slightly scary view of the future care of complex needs children, incorporating the use emerging technologies like real time monitoring, 3D printing and artificial intelligence.

Social: Don’t Forget the Party was the cocktail party celebration of the conference. Being a paediatric conference, it was only appropriate that the party should be held surrounded by superhero paraphenalia at the Gallery of Modern Art during the final days of the Marvel Exhibition!

Day 3: Heart-felt and hard topics  

You can tell calibre of a conference by the number of guests who manage to arrive by 9am on the final day, and the almost full auditorium proved to be just that. The final day of DFTB17 started with insights by Natalie May on using paediatric skills to help manage difficult adult emergency patients, before Johnny Taitz discussed all things patient safety. The morning finished with acclaimed photographer Rachel Callander reducing the entire audience to a bumbling mess of happy tears through sharing the story of losing her daughter Evie to a life-limiting genetic disorder, and the Super Baby Project (http://www.superpowerbabyproject.org/) that has resulted from connecting with the families of many other children like her.

The morning concurrent sessions included radiopaedia legend Craig Hacking on emergency and trauma radiology in kids, and a tour-de-simulation, fidelity and debriefing. The ‘difficult conversations’ session certainly lived up to its namesake, with a parent’s emotional perspective on stillbirth, how to address chronic and complex illnesses in adolescents (including pseudoseizures and chronic abdominal pain), and a crash course in building rapport and being a health advocate for LGBTQIA adolescents.


Afternoon concurrent sessions included a panel discussion on implementing excellent acute paediatric care; drugs in chronic pain, wheeze and epilepsy; and a surgical stream on the move to minimally invasive surgery in children, how to ‘save balls’ (her words, not mine) and what every surgeon wishes you knew (hint: physicians and surgeons think differently to save the same problem, they can both be right and both be wrong!).

The inaugrual DFTB17 finished on a high note as expected. The Stone family shared their experience from diagnosis to surgery and rehabilitation in their son’s subaortic stenosis (who for the record, remembered his stay in ICU as “just boredom and nausea”). Tim Horeczko spoke on how to calm the storm in paediatric resuscitation, and Josh Francis finished the day with a paediatrician’s perspective on the challenges in infectious disease working in East Timor.

DFTB17 was everything it promised to be and more. From the variety of topics to the high quality of presentations, the inaugural Don’t Forget the Bubbles conference proved to be an outstanding success if the flurry of twitter activity and excited conversations in the hallways by the guests is anything to go by!


Katherine Gridley

Ed – this is Katherine’s second post here at St.Emlyn’s and we want to thank her for her work. You can read her review of the Winter ACEM meeting here.


Before you go please don’t forget to…

Cite this article as: Simon Carley, "Unforgettable: Don’t Forget the Bubbles 2017 (#DFTB17) with Kat Gridley & St.Emlyn’s," in St.Emlyn's, September 13, 2017, https://www.stemlynsblog.org/unforgettable-dont-forget-the-bubbles-2017-dftb17-with-kat-grindley-st-emlyns/.

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