Life on 27B

School teacher Jan and Rory

It is hard to paint a picture of what it is like to live on Starship Ward 27B (Oncology).  It reminds me of a beehive.  The ward is constructed of cells sealed by glass doors.  Behind each door is a child who has been diagnosed with cancer, from babies to teenagers like Rory.  For some it is their first diagnosis, others have relapsed after treatment and very rarely they have secondary cancer as a result of treatment years ago.  The children spend all day in a hospital bed connected to IV lines.  Some are receiving toxic chemotherapy agents, just enough to kill cancer cells yet minimise the effect on their developing bodies.  Some are being flushed with fluids to reduce the toxicity of their blood, and others are receiving antibiotics for an infection they developed while neutropenic.  The children are mostly silent.  Sometimes I hear moans, cries and screams.  With the passing of time they resemble each other; hairless, pale, thin.  The children spend their days watching tv, playing on devices, reading, playing games or just lying there waiting for a time when they feel better.  Each cell also contains immediate family; mums, dads, siblings and occasionally grandparents.  They have walked out on everything to help keep their children alive.  We help the children wash, eat, go to the bathroom, take their medication, fill the long days, and provide strength to their spirits so they can keep going.  I pass parents in the hallway and the kitchen, sometimes they are withdrawn inside themselves because of the enormity of the task and other times they want to talk.  Bustling around the cells are brightly dressed nurses.  They administer medication, measure and monitor to ensure the children are getting the best medical care, 24:7.  Life on 27B continues like this every day.  Somewhere between 150-200 children are diagnosed with cancer in New Zealand each year. 

Rory received the Methotrexate on Thursday morning.  They have been flushing his system with 330ml of fluids an hour, every hour, since then.  We are back to getting up every 1.5 hours all night to pee.  Rory’s blood Methotrexate level was high yesterday but the Drs cannot give him any more fluid via IV so we just have to wait.  Rory has been lethargic and queasy with a sore tummy so we resorted to a Seaband and the flax seed bag (like a wheat bag) to ease the discomfort.  We have had a visit from Dr Kath.  Teacher Jan (in the photo) visits every day and spends half an hour with Rory.  Jan is a classic school teacher, she is not put off by Rory’s fatigue or disinterest.  She brings him something new every visit and is determined he will participate and learn something during their time together.  We got a break from hospital food when I ducked out to fill a couple of containers with the delicious meal available at RM House on Thursday night.