Monday, December 31, 2007

Where she goes, we go says cancer girl's mum

KERRY WILLIAMSON - The Dominion Post | Saturday, 27 October 2007

ROSS GIBLIN/The Dominion Post

UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Lea White and Bianca, 4, who has acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. If she requires treatment outside Wellington, Mrs White says the family will move, too.

Lea White fears she may have to uproot her family and move them out of Wellington to ensure her young daughter lives to see her fifth birthday.

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She and husband Terence fear that, if four-year-old leukaemia patient Bianca gets sicker than she already is, she may need tertiary care.

But with Wellington Hospital unlikely to offer that for at least six months after the resignation of its only two cancer child specialists, that would mean a trip to clinics in either Auckland or Christchurch.

It would also mean a long stay for Bianca well away from the comforts of home, her parents and eight-month-old sister, Caitlyn.

"It's just so much easier to have her treated here, but now with no oncologist we just don't know what's going to happen," Mrs White, of Papakowhai, Porirua, said.

"If she had to go somewhere else, there's no way I would separate her from the family. I am not prepared to split up the family unit, so we would all move together.

"In the back of your mind you can't be unprepared. If it does come to that, we are going to have to consider it - there's no other way."

Bianca was found to have acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in June, two weeks before her fourth birthday.

Her treatments do not yet require her to travel out of Wellington. However, with the resignation of paediatric oncologist Anne Mitchell last week, the Whites are concerned that could change.

Early in her treatment, Bianca had to spent 34 nights in isolation at Wellington Hospital to protect her from the risk of infection.

Her parents fear that, if she needed isolation again, it would be in an unfamiliar ward well away from home.

"My daughter is only four," Mrs White said. "It took her a really long time to get used to everybody here. If we have to be stuck in Christchurch, her whole life would be her illness."

Capital and Coast District Health Board is advertising for two new paediatric oncologists and is negotiating a partnership deal with Canterbury DHB. However, Wellington's child cancer clinic is unlikely to offer advanced care for at least six months.

Dr Mitchell, who was not available for comment yesterday, was involved in Bianca's treatment from the beginning.

Mrs White says she is devastated that her daughter's oncologist is leaving, and is angry that the situation at Wellington Hospital has reached this point.

She hopes a replacement for Dr Mitchell can be found soon, and that a commitment will be made to ensuring tertiary treatment is available in Wellington long-term. "I want them to consider that it's people they are dealing with."

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