Bringing Smiles To Children With Cancer In Africa

August 13, 2014


Shortly after I arrived in Botswana, I shared why I thought the pediatric oncology ward was The Most Boring Place on Earth. Thankfully, it no longer holds that dubious distinction. We have been working hard to be able to provide more activites and amenities to our patients in hopes that it would bring them more comfort during their stay. Here’s a look at what’s been bringing smiles to our patients faces:

Through the tremendous generosity of a local company and the tireless efforts of our project manager and care coordinator, Amanda Slone, children receiving chemotherapy can now be entertained by watching movies! This generous gift was not limited to just the pediatric cancer patients. Fourteen flat screen TVs were installed throughout the pediatric medical and surgical wards which generally have a combined census of over 100 children. The TVs are linked to a central DVD player showing the same movie so there is no need for the children to leave their bed, which many unfortunately cannot. This project took about 18 months from conception to installation and took persistence to gain the necessary approvals. We are very thankful for this wonderful gift to help our patients pass the time.

Another project that has kept the children smiling is preparing for an art exhibit in the U.S. The Periwinkle Foundation has asked our Botswana patients to participate in the Making a Mark exhibit and the children have been hard at work on their projects. A local artist has volunteered her time to assist and teach new techniques. Through this project, we have seen art overcome linguistic and cultural hurdles we face in working with these children.

Finally, another wonderful addition has been something we Americans likely take for granted: pillows. Through some investigative work, a supply of pillows was discovered in the hospital and donations led to bright and cheerful pillow cases. Getting things like TVs and pillows are only part of the work. We continue to advocate for the use of the pillows and children’s programming to be played on the TVs. In a setting where safety and nourishment can be major concerns, comfort is a different concept than what Americans often accept as standard. Instead of just treating the cancer, we hope to show the benefits of treating the whole child. Through efforts like these, we hope we are making an impact! For more information about the International Program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, visit here.

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Jeremy S. Slone, MD, MPH

Dr. Jeremy Slone, an Assistant Professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH), specializes clinically in pediatric solid tumors. His clinical research focuses on pediatric cancer epidemiology in low and middle income countries (LMICs),...

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