Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust: supporting African children that suffer from Burkitt lymphoma cancer

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Archive for January, 2014

A visit from nurse Vera

On the morning of Sunday 23rd June 2013, there was heavy rainfall in Cameroon. I left my residence in Kumbo that afternoon for Douala airport, and arrived there next day. I boarded Air France for Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Paris on 25th June.

From CDG the next morning my flight was delayed and I arrived at London Heathrow International airport about two hours late. Dr Peter, who had left Warkton village at 4am, waited for me in vain, and had barely left the airport, thinking I had missed my flight, when I arrived. He could only learn about this in the next four hours, in Warkton. He kindly drove back to Heathrow to pick me up; driving to and from London twice in one day, a thing he had never done before.

This late arrival caused a lot of changes in my UK plans, but thanks to Dr Catherine D’Souza who brilliantly offered more of her time and resources than originally envisaged, the problems were resolved. She drove to Warkton from her home in Castle Donnington, and drove me back to spend the night at her home. This would help me get to Leeds teaching hospital next day, on time. At 6am on 26th June I left Castle Donnington train station for Leeds.

I got there on time for my planned Thursday morning presentation in the pediatric oncology and haematology unit, and gave a talk about my role as a nurse practitioner in the care of children with Burkitt Lymphoma. The audience was astonished, and added that they could hardly believe their ears regarding what we can achieve in Africa; especially with our very limited resources. The rest of the day I spent in the clinic with the nurses, and the doctors, and I also went round the wards and other departments of the hospital directly concerned with this unit. I saw more specialized, high standard care given to these children. Finally, I got the train back to Castle  Donnington, and Dr Peter came from Warkton village to pick me up.

After a restful night in Warkton village, I went for a dog walk  (the first in my life!) on 27th June in the morning. The rest of the day was spent shopping at TESCOs and going round the Northamptonshire villages. What fascinated me was the monument near one of the villages signifying the area where the American airmen who fought in the second world war were based. I was equally amazed at the old buildings which have been preserved for centuries, one of which, in Weekley village, is the place where children were taught to “reade and write”.

I was privileged to attend a service at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge on 28th June where I listened to the wonderful voices of the Choristers as they sang. It was a very solemn service.

Another thrilling time was the fund raising event I attended at Burton Latimer on Saturday, 29th June, organized by the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin. This was a wonderful evening of ‘barn dancing’ – (the first in my life!) at a nearby Garden Centre, with lots of fun and physical exercise.

Sunday was very thrilling too. I attended church service in the morning at St Edmund’s Warkton, Dr Peter’s church, and the evening service at Fuller Baptist Church, Kettering, Dr Paul’s church. Both services encouraged me as a Christian.

Monday July 1st was for resting, and packing for my journey home early next morning.

This one week in the English Midlands was a most memorable and very busy time. I experienced and achieved a lot. I could not have done it without help from friends and family.


Vera; Nurse Practitioner, Banso Baptist Hospital, Kumbo

North West Region, Cameroon, W Africa.

Vera in Leeds

CBC Childhood Cancer Symposium “A Decade of Dedication” Mutengene Health Services Complex – 29 November 2013

Prof Peter Hesseling and Dr Paul Wharin make biannual visits to the three Baptist hospitals to encourage our Cameroonian colleagues who provide continuing care for children with cancer and to collate results of the cancer treatment protocols designed by Prof Hesseling.

We hold frequent workshops in which teams from the three hospitals come together to share experience and consider problems and challenges. In 2007 we held our first Burkitt’s Lymphoma Symposium at Mutengene Health Services Complex. Members from the teams at the three Baptist hospitals made presentations: doctors, nurses, ultrasonographers, dentists, and our pathologist – all who contributed to the diagnosis and treatment of Burkitt’s lymphoma. Our scope has since widened from Burkitt’s lymphoma to other cancers: Wilms tumour (kidney cancer), retinoblastoma (eye cancer), and Kaposi sarcoma. Presentations were made at the November 2013, 10th anniversary symposium on the diagnosis and treatment of these cancers – for which we now have approved treatment protocols. Two other major advances since 2007 are a dedicated palliative care service to our children and the establishment of parent support groups. Joel Kaah, motorbike palliative care nurse gave a talk on the palliative care outreach program at Banso Baptist Hospital and the chairmen of two of the Parent Support Groups reported on the activities of their groups in the final session.

Again it was an occasion when doctors, nurses, parents and children contributed. We had just completed the first session when Cameroonian TV arrived and the director asked that we repeat the first 6 talks! This included my talk on “The Role of BTMAT”. I understand that the proceedings were broadcast 3 times on Cameroon National Radio in the subsequent 24 hours and may by now have appeared on TV. It will all help to raise awareness of childhood cancer in Cameroon.

Motorbike Palliative Care: an Update

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.

Joel Kaah and the palliative care bike

Message from Dr Kouya Francine

Greetings to all friends and colleagues. I hope this finds you well. It is a great privilege for us to be part of such tremendous work, such achievement.

We feel that we have offered something to the World. Because of your expertise, and your generous donations many children in the North West province of Cameroon are alive today.

On behalf of all the staff, the parents and the children we want to appreciate all of you for supporting this programme and making it to be a success.

Your support has made our daily task to be less frustrating.
Your support has made us to give quality care.
Your support has made us to give hope to families.
Your support has made the reputation of this institution to be known.

We will continue to offer our best care  –  ‘examplary care to those in need’ –  as written in our Mission Statement.

Have a Wonderful Christmas and a Blessed New Year

Dr Kouya Francine

Mbingo Baptist Hospital.

NW Province,