Monday, May 12, 2008

Family quit Wellington for Bianca's cancer care

RUTH HILL - The Dominion Post Tuesday, 13 May 2008


ON THE MOVE: Bianca White with parents Lea and Terence and younger sister Caitlyn. `We would rather stay in Wellington . . . but personally I don't feel it's that safe at the moment,' Mrs White says.

Faced with the prospect of another five months without a paediatric oncologist in Wellington, Bianca White's parents are moving to Auckland to be nearer specialist services.

Bianca, 4, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia last June, two weeks before her birthday.

The timing could not have been worse: in July, Wellington Hospital was forced to downgrade its child cancer service after the departure of a paediatric oncologist.

The remaining specialist left in January.

Two permanent specialists from Germany are due to start work in October, but meanwhile children needing intensive treatment must go to Auckland or Christchurch.

Bianca's mother, Lea White, said though the nursing and medical staff at Ward 18 had bent over backwards to do their best for families in trying circumstances, the situation had been worrying.

An offer by her husband's employer to transfer him to Auckland "came at the right time".

"The staff here are wonderful, and the support from the Child Cancer Foundation has been a life-line ... If her case was a bit more straightforward, maybe we could wait till October ... but with everything she's been through we would rather she was under an oncologist on site."

Bianca is at present on a maintenance regime, rather than intensive chemotherapy, but she has suffered numerous complications and cannot mix with other child cancer patients because of a case of suspected shingles.

Mrs White said it was hard leaving Wellington, where the family had lived for three years.

"We would rather stay in Wellington ... but personally I don't feel it's that safe at the moment ...

"We always said we would do whatever it takes to get her through. It is disruptive but we are lucky we have this opportunity."

A Unit Struggling

The number of "reportable events" involving child cancer patients at Wellington Hospital more than doubled in the first half of last year as the unit struggled with a rash of resignations.

Figures issued by Capital and Coast District Health Board record 36 such events - which included administrative delays, staff issues, staffing levels and medication errors or "near misses" - between April and June. In the first three months of the year, there were 14.

None had resulted in serious harm to patients, said the board's clinical director of child health services, Graeme Lear.

Though there were very few child cancer patients, each child required dozens (in some cases hundreds) of procedures, interventions and interactions in the course of their treatment.

"We strongly encourage our staff to report any events or near misses, as this enables us to improve quality standards and adjust our processes to reduce the likelihood of recurrence."

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fighting against a repeat of history


GETTING SUPPORT: Seven-year-old Liam Todd will have facial surgery for an aggressive malignant tumour next week, his father lost his battle with brain cancer two years ago.

Two years after a father lost his battle with brain cancer, his seven-year-old son is fighting a malignant tumour in his sinus cavity.

Matt Todd, 34, died in May 2006. Last month, Matt's son Liam was found to have an aggressive malignant tumour and once again the local community is rallying to support the family.

Liam's mother, Rebecca Todd, was just starting to come to terms with her husband's death when she received the shattering news. Doctors told her the two diagnoses were unrelated.

"The rug was pulled from under me. I expected the worst because I am used to hearing the worst, but when they delivered the diagnosis I was numb," she said.

The Kapiti Coast family - Mrs Todd also has a five-year-old daughter, Ashleigh - have returned from a 10-day stay at Ronald McDonald House in Christchurch, where Liam underwent procedures at Christchurch Hospital because there are no paediatric oncologists at Wellington Hospital.

The best thing about returning home for Liam was "being back in my bed".

Preliminary results show the tumour to be a type very rare in adults and even more rare in children. It does not respond to chemotherapy so will have to be removed.

Liam will undergo facial surgery at Hutt Hospital next week.

His biggest concern is having plasters removed after the surgery. "They really sting."

The outgoing schoolboy said it was "great" being back at school with his friends for a few days.

His biggest disappointment was not being able to play rugby, but the highlight of the past gruelling weeks had been a gift from the Crusaders - a jersey emblazoned with "Liam, all the best with your fight", signed by his heroes Richie McCaw, Leon MacDonald, Stephen Brett, coach Robbie Deans and other team members.

The annual Bowman-Todd memorial rugby match this weekend will now raise funds for Ronald McDonald House as well as Mary Potter Hospice.

The match is named for Mr Todd and his friend Dave Bowman, a 36-year-old former policeman who successfully campaigned for government funding for the chemotherapy drug Temodal before dying just five weeks after Mr Todd.

The police invitational team v Waikanae invitational team game kicks off at 1.15pm at Waikanae Park on Saturday.

Anyone wanting to support the event can contact Ty Davidson at Kapiti police station.