Our most effective treatment protocol for Burkitt’s lymphoma, the most common childhood cancer in sub-Saharan Africa gives a 60% one year survival. We do not abandon the 40% or more of children that we cannot cure but offer palliative care and continuing support to their parents.
In October 2012 a survey of children with cancer discharged from Banso Baptist Hospital showed that a large majority lived well outside the range of the 4- wheel drive vehicle used by the hospital palliative care team. Since a nurse on a motorbike can reach further and travel faster than the PC team vehicle we decided to purchase a motorbike, a Galaxy Golden Eagle. The chief medical officer and senior nursing officer at Banso selected a male nurse with paediatric nursing experience who could train further in palliative care – and take motorbike riding lessons. His name is Mr Joel Kaah and he began work in January 2013.
Joel is a member of the Banso Burkitt team with hospital nurse practitioner, Vera Larfi and research assistant nurse, Glenn Mbah. As such he cares for children BEFORE discharge and is able to coordinate palliative care. He decides with the rest of the team which child and family will benefit from a home visit. I have collated Joel’s monthly reports from January 2013 and the impact of his work in improving quality of life for children AND their carers is being assessed by one of our colleagues, Dr Mona Tammanai as part of her Masters thesis in International Medicine. A preliminary report from Mona shows that Joel’s visits have been welcomed on every occasion. Although telephone advice is usually available to parents of a dying child we are convinced that nothing can replace a visit from a caring professional palliative care nurse.