Reaching out across the World

 

 


We have just returned from a 5 week visit to
Cankids, a Children’s Palliative Care unit in Delhi and are now 146 Kg lighter
having delivered your generous gifts. Nothing can ever prepare you for the
contrast between the UK and India and we are surprised, amazed and humbled each
time we return. Cankids is a charity which helps and cares
for over 20,000 children with cancer and their families across India, providing
financial support for treatment, offering accommodation, counselling and most
recently providing palliative care for those beyond cure. 

We arrived hot and tired at the unit which is
hidden away in the back streets of Delhi, to a warm welcome from the children,
parents and staff, were garlanded with flowers before getting down to the work
– ward rounds, clinics, teaching and mentoring.

With just 13 beds for children aged 3 months
to 21 years plus 1-2 parents each who sleep on the floor by their beds, the unit
is crowded with a fast and furious turnover.

When well enough children and their parents
are transferred to our 22 bedded hostel or return many hundreds of miles home,
to be followed up by phone. The majority will die (80% compared to 20% in the
UK) as they have advanced disease at diagnosis and only those below the poverty
line receive any Government funding for treatment. Thank God for the NHS!!

The children really appreciated the books and
pencils, personal toiletries and toys which you gave making each of them feel
special. The nurses were delighted to receive dressing, medicines and cream
recycled from your cupboards to treat the children.

With more than 358 million children under 14
years of age in India, and even though cancer in children more children are
diagnosed with cancer in Delhi hospitals each year than in the whole of the UK.
Many of them travel hundreds of miles for investigation and treatment that they
can ill afford and are forced to live on the pavement for the duration. Cankids
raises awareness for early diagnosis and supports children with cancer and
their families in 46 centers across India through their treatment and onto survivorship
or at the end of life and in bereavement. The solid foundation for this charity
are the parent volunteers, who have lost a child to cancer and survivors, both children
and their parents, who all wish to give something back.

For more information about our work- visit
Cankids web site at www.cankidsindia.org or for more details of our trip and
how you have helped.

Thank you

Drs
Robert Kingett and Lindsay Crack   

 


Doc’s in Delhi - Final Week

Its Thursday 1st of October and we are approaching our last few days at Cankids, We had an early start this morning with Lindsay giving a talk to Orthopaedic surgeons at Aiims Hospital on “Procedural analgesia” ie pain free procedures such as bone marrow aspiration and bone biopsies, for children. They listened, but then came up with many excuses why it cannot be done, most of which you would not find acceptable!
We have a 11 year old orphan boy on the ward at present, who is dying of leukaemia. He was found begging at the metro station by the police, and although he has a family, he did not know where they were, so he was placed in the orphanage. He had chemotherapy and went into remission for 1 year but the relapsed. Further chemotherapy did not work and there are no funds for him to be considered for a bone marrow transplant, which he might be offered in the UK.
He is a very sad, angry, lonely child who is dying alone. The staff of Cankids are working hard to befriend him but his previous experience, makes him very wary.


One person dies of cancer in India every minute but one child is born every minute. As one life ends another begins. Cankids cannot solve, all the medical problems, of all the children in India with cancer. It can help by its Pan India work increae the awareness of what can be done for them. By helping those, who are lucky enough to get to Cankids Paediatric Palliative Care unit in Delhi, they hope to be able to add life to their days even though they cannot add days to their lives. Your continuing support helps to make all this possible.
As we finish our work here with the doctors and nurses and start to plan our journey home, we would like to take this opportunity of thanking you one more time, for your support and generosity, which helps to make so much difference to these children’s lives.

Dr Robert Kingett and Dr Lindsay Crack

 

 

 


 

Doc’s in Delhi - Week 3

Hard to believe we have been here 3 weeks now, sometimes it feels much longer. We are making progress with training the doctors and nurses but it is very slow and it needs a great deal of reinforcement to get any change. The children to come and go on a regular basis and the colouring books and coloured pencils have been a great hit with all ages. We have 4 children on the ward with PNET tumours (cancer of primitive brain cells).

 

I saw one in my 33 yrs as a GP in Corbridge!! It is not that these tumours are more common in India, there are just a lot more children to get them. There are 358,539,943 children under the age of 14 in India compared with 11,473,739in the UK.
The staff of Cakids are very dedicated and many of them are volunteers, most of whom, have had children who have died of cancer. There are also a number of young people who have survived their cancer, who work in various capacities.

 


This picture shows some of the team, Nurses, physiotherapist, Psychologist and a Hospital tracker, who follows up the children.

The staff from Cankids visit the main cancer hospital (AIIMS) and register any children who turn up there with cancer. There is no real hospital referral system in India, since there is no equivalent to the GP, so people just come with sick children, often having travelled for several days by train, to get there.

 

 


These Chatti clinics are held in the porch of the hospital, as there is no room in side. Cankids register the children, provide financial help, signpost them to their blood tests. x ray etc. and make sure they know what is happening and what to do. They will also maintain contact with the families as they return for treatment.
Your contributions in kind and money continue to be put to good use and we thank you once again, on behalf of the children, who benefit from your generosity.

Dr.Robert Kingett and Dr Lindsay Crack

 

 

 


 

Doc’s in Delhi - Week 2


Its 9am and we have just arrived at work, we are hot and perspiring like mad. It is already 38C outside and although we have air conditioning in the office in which we work the heat hits you like a wall once you step out of it.


We have diced with death taking an auto rickshaw ride from our hotel to the metro station. The roads are jam packed. There seems to be no rules of the road and everyone just drives for any break in the traffic, over and under taking at will, dodging pedestrians. There are pedestrian crossings but they seem to be there just as decoration for the road!!. No one stops at them.

 


At the metro we join the lines of people waiting to have their bags scanned and be frisked by the police before you can get onto the platform. No one is checking the scanner and the search is at token gesture. We pack like sardines into the air conditioned metro, and are glad we only have to go 3 stops.
The work at Cankids proceeds at a pace. The founder and many of the board members have been away on a car rally the last few days, as a sponsored even, raising money and the profile of Cankids, with lots of newspaper coverage.


The ward remains full of hustle and bustle with patients coming and going to outpatient appointments and chemotherapy. Everything is slowed down at the hospitals in Delhi at present as we are in the middle of an outbreak of Dengue Fever. The hospitals are full of worried people trying to be seen, most of whom don’t have Dengue fever but in the absence of any form of general practice, they have nowhere else to go. The “black market” is doing a roaring trade in the grounds of the hospital selling goat’s milk and papaya, which are supposed to help your platelet count, if you have dengue fever. Last week a bottle of goat’s milk was 600 rupees this week 800.


The children’s ward have had new air-conditioning units fitted this week but they don’t run them at night! Our current group of children age from a baby of three months who has retinoblastoma (malignant tumour of the eye) to a 20 yr old boy who has had his knee removed for osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and replaced with a metal implant, but not a knee replacement as we know it, so it does not bend. He is learning to walk again before he goes home.
 This week have admitted a 15 year old girl for with generalised cancer, who is palliative (no further active treatment) for pain management. Girls with cancer In India are much less likely to be treated or default from treatment. In poor families, girls are often seen as a burden, because they go to their husband’s family when they marry, need dowries and do not support their parents in old age. There is still infanticide of female children, in rural areas.


The stigma of having had cancer is still a big problem in India and girl survivors of cancer are very unlikely to marry, especially if they have had chemotherapy which may make them infertile or have had an amputation for a bone cancer. Cankids has a very active girls survivors group, who try to support girls who have had cancer, to get reintegrated into society, find them jobs and partners.


Well will continue to do what we can in helping to train the doctors and nurses, helping those children we can.. I will write again next week

 


 

 

Doc’s in Delhi - Week 1


Well, here we are back in Delhi, for another 5 weeks working for CanKids. After a long but easy flight from Newcastle to Heathrow and then on to Delhi we disembarked into a wave of stifling heat, endless traffic and a cacophony of noise which is continuous wherever you go in Delhi. We fail to make contact with our driver amidst the thousands of people milling around the airport terminal and eventually settle to cramming our 140 kg of luggage consisting mostly of drugs, dressings, children’s toys, used laptops, printers, syringe drivers, things for children’s comfort boxes, so kindly and generously collected and donated by yourselves, into a taxi.


After arriving at our hotel, it was a quick wash, then back in CanKids van and off to the Day Care Transition Home in Gutam Nagar. We disembark out into the stifling heat and make our way down a series of dusty alleys, past small shops, endless motorbikes in various

 

stages of decay and as always, endless streams of people, till we arrive at the front door.
As we enter the building, we are greeted by several excited people who we know from previous visits, garlanded with flowers, have a red bindi placed on our foreheads, are each presented with a cake with 2 candles!, each with iced writing wishing us “welcome”. Well it was a quick bite of cake then out onto the ward to meet the patients.  It had been decorated by some volunteers since we had last visited but already it was looking used and a bit battered. There were 12 children spread over the tree wards, all boys! Aged 6 months to 20 yrs. They all have cancer and are pale, thin, and bald from their chemotherapy. They are all small for their age and show evidence of being chronically undernourished. We work our way round with the ward doctors who translate Hindi to English for us and English to Hindi for the patients and their “bystander” usually their mother or father, who stays with them, on a mattress on the floor by their bed, during their stay.

 


We eventually get home at 7pm having not slept for 24 hrs and already feeling that we are in over our head, with so much that needs doing if we are going to make any real impact. As we settle into our comfortable bed in an air condition room, we leave the hullabaloo behind us and could be anywhere in the affluent world but we know that tomorrow we will be back out into the harsh reality of the life that millions of poor people live in India especially those who we have the privilege to look after as CanKids works to give help hope and support to these less fortunate children and their families.

All our best wishes
Dr. Lindsay Crack and Dr. Robert kingett

If you wish to know more about the work of CanKids visit www.cankidsindia.org