Children’s Oncology Isolation Unit Opens in Pretoria
CANSA officially opened its CANSA Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) Brian Davey Step Down Unit in September 2015, housed at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.
The unit, which serves the Steve Biko, Unitas and Pretoria East hospitals, provides a family friendly environment where children can safely recover and build up their immune systems, without risk of infection.
In a typical stem cell transplant for cancer, very high doses of chemotherapy are used, often along with radiation therapy, to try to destroy all the cancer cells. This treatment also kills the stem cells in the bone marrow. Soon after treatment, stem cells are given to replace those that were destroyed. These stem cells are given into a vein, much like a blood transfusion. Over time they settle in the bone marrow and begin to grow and make healthy blood cells.
Children recovering from such a transplant are still at high risk of exposure to infections and need to stay in isolation for some time. The time taken for this process to be completed differs from child to child and may also be further complicated should the patient develop graft-versus-host disease, where the procedure is not successful.
The unit caters for children being treated for all types of leukaemia. The patients and one of their parents or a guardian are accommodated for free if they are undergoing treatment at one of the three hospitals and are referred by a specialist. The aim is to shorten the hospitalisation period of the children, who are discharged when they are out of risk but still need daily check-ups. The step down unit doesn’t offer treatment and should a child relapse, he or she will be immediately readmitted to hospital. The unit offers easy access to the treatment units and treating doctors.
Home Away from Home
The unit can accommodate three children, each with one parent, at a time. Each room has an en-suite bathroom and, as the children improve, they can start to move around within CANSA Nicus TLC Lodge. In addition to the three rooms, two bedrooms have been converted into a TV room and a computer room. Another space has been converted into a visitors’ room.
Dedicated to the memory of Rotary Club of Benoni Van Ryn member late Brian Davey who suffered from acute lymphocytic leukemia, the unit is the result of the combined efforts and support of CANSA, Outsurance, KPMG and the Rotary Club of Waterkloof and Rotary’s sister club Inner Wheel.
Together with its partners, CANSA revamped existing facilities at the CANSA TLC Nicus Lodge, used for general peadiatric oncology accommodation, into an environment more suitable for isolation recovery. The floors were replaced with epoxy flooring, the walls painted with an antibacterial paint and the kitchen work surfaces replaced with a durable material that is easy to clean.
CANSA’s Tough Living with Cancer (TLC) Programme
The CANSA TLC Programme educates and promotes awareness on childhood cancers and early detection, as well as supporting diagnosed children / teens and their families.
Parents, families, and guardians can also join our Facebook Support Group: CANSA TLC – Childhood Cancer Support, to connect with others in a similar position.
Says Portia Masango, whose son was diagnosed with cancer: “Today marks exactly one year since my then 5 year old was diagnosed with cancer. I can still see Dr Khoza’s face when she said, ‘I’m afraid I’m gonna have to admit Tshegofatso, I need a CT scan done on him tomorrow, cos I suspect he has cancer.’
We were in Mankweng, a strange place, with no one we know around. The reality of it all never really hit me until we got transfered to Steve biko Academic. Then I got to understand what having a child with cancer means. Chemo, the nausea, loss of appetite, losing weight, being weak, sometimes feeling so helpless, feeling like just screaming. Being anxious, asking yourself: is he going to make it? The hope I had after completing the chemo cycles, only to do the CT scan and learn that the tumor was still there! Yet somehow having the strength to still go on.
Today, a year later, I’m grateful for every thing thus far: being able to attend school without major problems, just the occasional bleeding here and there, his glowing face despite chemo, still being able to play, slowly gaining back the weight, and the support from the CANSA TLC Childhood Cancer Facebook Support Group. It’s much easier when you talk to people who really understand what your talking about!”