SAJOCAH is the acronym of Saint Joseph’s Children and Adults Home. It is a Catholic Rehabilitation Centre situated at Bafut, a small town in N.W.Cameroon about 40 miles from Mbingo Baptist Hospital.
About 10% of our children with Burkitt’s lymphoma present with paraplegia (weakness or full paralysis of the lower limbs) due to a tumour pressing on the spinal cord. Burkitt’s lymphoma is a “soft” tumour which simply DISSOLVES with chemotherapy: we can relieve pressure on the spinal cord with a single bolus (dose) of anticancer drug. Power will begin to return to the limbs within 24 hours – this is wonderful to see. However, if the weakness or paralysis has been present for over 3 weeks damage to the spinal cord may be permanent: we can cure the cancer but the
neurological damage causing weakness and paralysis (plus/minus incontinence) remains.
In May 2013 Professor Hesseling, Glenn Mbah (research assistant nurse, BBH), Joel Kaah (motorbike palliative care nurse, BBH) and I visited SAJOCAH. We were given the warmest hospitality by the senior sister (Sister Victorine) and her staff. We saw the workshops where staff (mainly ex-patients) make callipers, braces and artificial limbs. We met Dutch physios who give expert supervision. We learnt of their “training” programmes for children with urinary or faecal incontinence. I gained the impression that the sisters were giving long term care to a few children with multiple handicaps who had been abandoned by their families.
We have referred our first patient to SAJOCAH, a young boy cured of Burkitt’s lymphoma but with residual spasticity of his legs.
We hope that this will be the start of a new partnership – for the sake of children in Cameroon.
Paul Wharin (July 2013)