Sunday, March 30, 2014

Toy Distribution

A huge thank you to all who donated stuffed toys for BSMMU.  Here are some photos when we distributed the toys as gifts to over 60 children today!

Visitors from a company which donates to World Child Cancer in the UK

Not sure if he likes this toy...

Monday, March 24, 2014

Independent Stethoscope Article for World Cancer Day

I had forgotten that I wrote this article last month for World Cancer Day.  It was published in the Independent, a local English newspaper, in a special medical section called the stethoscope.

I am posting the article below as well as the link,

Over 200 000 children develop cancer worldwide each year. 80% of these children live in low or
middle-income countries where access to effective treatments is extremely limited and survival
rates are as low as 5%. In Bangladesh, 8000 children will develop cancer each year, with
prompt and effective treatment 80% would be cured. Unfortunately, the majority of these
children do not receive any cancer treatment because fewer than 10% will be diagnosed before
they die.      

The recently released Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) published by the World Health Organization (WHO) calls
on governments to develop strategies for the treatment of cancer to prevent premature
mortality. Furthermore, as cure may not always be possible, the WHO strategy also advocates
for the integration of palliative care and pain relief into the care of all patients with cancer.
Although cancer in adults is often due to behavioral or dietary risks, the cause of the majority of
cancer in children is not known.

Cancer treatments for children are often relatively simple, using inexpensive medications and
procedures that have been available for many years. A key strategy to improve the survival of
children with cancer in Bangladesh is to improve the rate of early detection of cancer, as many
cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed only when the cancer has advanced beyond when
cure is possible. Public education and awareness campaigns are key to ensuring early

Many doctors and nurses in Bangladesh are unaware that there are effective treatments for
childhood cancer. Health care professionals need to be educated about childhood cancer and
its early warning signs.

Twinning partnerships, linking hospitals in resource poor countries, like Bangladesh, with
experienced childhood cancer hospitals in high-income countries, allows medical expertise to
be shared between professionals in the twining partnership, leading to an increased ability to
treat children with cancer.

World Child Cancer is a charity that works to improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of
children with cancer in low and middle-income countries. World Child Cancer works in
Bangladesh, facilitating a twinning partnership between the children’s cancer department at
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and experts from University College London in
the United Kingdom and British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Canada.

World Child Cancer also concentrates on ensuring that children have access to palliative care.
Palliative care for children is care focused on relieving physical, psychological, and emotional
suffering by providing holistic support to children and their families.

Palliative care for children should start when a child is diagnosed with cancer and should be
integrated with curative cancer therapy. The relief of pain and other symptoms is fundamental to
good cancer care.
Together these strategies can help to improve the lives of children in Bangladesh with cancer. 
Dedicated to World Cancer Day

Parents' Meeting for World Cancer day, all children received gifts of stuffed animals!

March for World Cancer Day

Rolling Out Cancer Care for all Children in Bangladesh

Right now only children who come to BSMMU or Dhaka Medical College will get curative treatment if they have cancer.  Many children are brought to BSMMU from outside of Dhaka for treatment, but because of the expense of travel and lost work time for parents, there are many more children who are not able to get treatment for their cancer because their families simply cannot afford to bring them to Dhaka.  Unfortunately without the specialized treatments available in Dhaka, these children will die.

This partially explains why instead of the expected 8000 cases/year of childhood cancer, only 1200 cases are diagnosed yearly.  The majority of children do not make it to an appropriately specialized hospital facility to get diagnosed.

Part of the work of World Child Cancer (the NGO that I volunteer with) is to try to ensure as many children as possible receive appropriate treatment for cancer.  This means that we need to reach the 6800 children/year who are not making it to BSMMU or Dhaka Medical College.  Fortunately, World Child Cancer has just received funding to develop and implement a National Cancer Strategy for Bangladesh.

This means that I will be working on getting treatment centres of childhood cancer set up in Chittigong and Syhlet, two other cities in Bangladesh. This will mean visiting these centres, training and supporting the doctors and collecting data on all the patients with cancer who are seen at these hospitals.  Does this sound like a big job?  It definitely is!

This will also be a great opportunity for me to learn more about how to develop a treatment strategy for an entire country and how to implement it!  I am really excited to be part of this work.  The plan is to incorporate palliative care into all aspects of the cancer care as even when child receive curative therapy, unfortunately only 50% will be cured (compared to 80% in developed countries).

At first he was a bit shy to play with toys, but did start playing with them a bit later.

Paint with water is a huge hit with the older kids; they have never seen it before!

Sonia loves to colour, she will find me whenever she is in the hospital and ask for pencil crayons and paper.  She has two older sisters who stay with her when she is hospitalized.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Keeping Busy!

Here is an update on some current projects that I'm working on at the hospital.

Play therapy.  We have finished our toy drive and it was overall a huge success.  Gwen prepared a list of the most needed items and we were lucky to receive most of these items.  We have also applied for funding from several local organizations to help us get some specialized physiotherapy equipment.  This equipment will be made locally at the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed which specializes in rehabilitation medicine.  (This is where many of those injured in the Rana Plaza building collapse received rehabilitation and prosthetics if they required amputations.)

Just a small slice of the toys donated. Spread out at my house as I get them all cleaned and sorted.

Working with students at the American School in Dhaka.  This group of students is learning about medical technology and to see this in action they travelled to BSMMU with me one day. The visited the wards and interviewed some patients.  They also visited the laboratory which is part of the oncology department and learned about some of the specialized machines which are used to diagnose cancer in children. They have been also helping with the toy drive and raising money to purchase several wheelchairs for the ward.

Part of the Gr. 5 class at the American School who came on a field trip to visit BSMMU and learn about medical technology.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Toy Drive in Dhaka

Gwen and I are asking the expatriate community to donate toys for the children at BSMMU.  We need these toys to give us something to work with in the play therapy program!  So far after two days of advertising we already have quite a few toys.  The best part is that we are getting some of the really good quality 'therapy' toys that we were hoping for; things like megablocks, shape shorter toys, and musical instruments.

The grade 5 class at the American International School is also going to be coming to visit the hospital tomorrow. They are also helping us to collect toys at their school and fundraising as part of a learning project, which will be used for IV poles, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Gwen's kids testing out some of our toy donations.

I also did my first teaching session with the nurses today.  I had one of the residents translate for me and it was a success!  I've invited Charlotte, the nurse educator, to come and give a guest lecture for the next session.