Many of you will remember the “Beryl Thyer Bulletin”. Peter McCormick’s sons Richard and David – now trustees – have created this website where you can find up to date news of our children’s cancer treatment programmes at the 3 Baptist Hospitals in Cameroon.
My recent visit to Cameroon (November 22nd to December 6th) with Prof Peter Hesseling was effective and I believe a real encouragement to our Cameroonian colleagues. Rather than produce a newsletter I have retyped some of my recent emails but with a few pictures to liven them up!
Thursday, 24 Nov 2011
Safe arrival at Douala on Tuesday evening and smooth passage through customs. Prof Hesseling arrived at the Catholic Procure at about midnight in the midst of a tropical downpour.
I am now at Mutengene Baptist Hospital. Much talking today – to lab.staff, to Eric and the palliative care team, to Richard in pharmacy stores, to Francisca Epie and the midwives who maintain the breastmilk bank, and even to carpenters (I organised some new shelving for notes in our registry office). I find it easy to link the excellent results of our Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL) treatment programme with the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board mission statement -which I often quote, hopefully to the encouragement of all.
Tomorrow we plan to visit a nearby Presbyterian hospital, then a small bush hospital and finally a village practitioner, “Dr” Peter Kimbi – they have all sent patients to us in the past sometimes partially treated. This is part of our now extensive advocacy/outreach programme.
Prof and I travel to Banso on Saturday.
Wednesday, 30 Nov 2011, at Banso
I have just lost a long email at point of SEND so I will make this a short one.
Today has been an exciting day. Prof Hesseling, nurses Glenn and Vera and I travelled to a small village called Ntada where 3 children treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma awaited us. All 3 children were well. The parents will form the nucleus of a new parents group: they will teach villagers to recognise BL (which is common) and support other “new” parents.
Afterwards Glenn and I addressed staff at a nearby Catholic Health Centre – and I was asked to see two more children with non-cancer related problems. Prof was given a live chicken (suitably trussed) and I was given a large cylindrical pawpaw (the sweetest variety).
Friday, 2 Dec 2011, Mbingo
Prof Hesseling has been working hard to review all the children’s files and enter data into a spreadsheet. Only by doing this do we know that the one year survival of our little cancer patients is over 60% – the best recorded in small hospitals in a resource poor setting in Africa. I have been entering the same data into POND (Paediatric Oncology Networked Database), a confidential website from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, USA. I use a template which I designed (or customised). Those of you who know my computer skills will realise that this is a minor miracle!
Sunday, 4 Dec 2011
Yesterday Prof and I attended a meeting of the N.W. Cameroon parents organisation (of children with cancer) – which we helped to launch in May of this year. One pa had travelled all the way from Mutengene in the S.W. I saw this man in May when he showed to us a prescription for drugs which would have cost him about £400. His 12 year old daughter had an aggressive muscle cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma) treated in the capital, Yaounde. He said “I have nothing left”. He had used all his money (and that sent by a sister in the UK) to pay for treatment. Prof looked at the list of drugs and decided what was essential. He then asked if I would be willing to supply these (free of charge) from our Burkitt lymphoma stocks. Of course I would!
Sadly this girl later died, but her grateful pa travelled all the way north to Mbingo to thank us. I still cannot get used to a system in which if you have no money you do not receive medical care. Isn’t our NHS wonderful!
Wednesday, 7 Dec 2011, Kettering!
On Monday evening Prof and I were back at Cameroon Baptist HQ in Bamenda. We had dinner with Walter Grob, Finance Comptroller of the CBC, and his wife Florence. It was a working dinner. Florence is a close friend of the wife of the Prime Minister, Mr Philemon Yang. We have humbly asked via Florence if the Prime Minister’s wife would be patron of our Parent Organisation. She would provide advocacy for our children’s cancer treatment programmes at the highest level.
We must go to Yaoundé the capital to meet the PM and his wife on our next visit in May 2012. Remind me to take a suit and a smart tie next time!
Paul Wharin, Dec. 2011