What are we fundraising for? Visit to the Teenage Cancer Ward

Posted on May 1, 2013

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On 29th April, members of the May Fair Committee were able to visit the Teenage Cancer Trust Ward at University College Hospital. We were shown around by Louise, the Ward Sister and accompanied by Carolyn from the Teenage Cancer Trust (the charity is the main beneficiary of the May Day Fair). The ward is the older of the two facilities at UCH and provides 18 bedspaces for teenagers aged 13-19, including patients with complex cases, those undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants.

The Day Room was last refurbished in 2005

The Day Room was last refurbished in 2005

We started our tour in the ‘Sanctuary’ a private room which provides space for parent and patient support groups. Louise explained how the NHS funds the salaries of medical staff but the Teenage Cancer Trust pay for specialist training. Working with teenage patients is a balance between providing friendship, support and high quality medical care – sound judgement is required as to where and when to draw the line to provide the patients with the best care. In the ward, the patients (rather than their parents) are in charge of their care plans and are consulted about their treatment at every stage.

Louise is in charge of twenty eight staff. In addition to medical staff, the Teenage Cancer Trust funds ‘activity co-ordinators’ who organise events and activities each day, including Christmas Day. Some patients call them “entertainment nurses”. The cards on the wall show how valuable this service is – Nicole found one from a patient who had written to say that it was the best Christmas she had ever had. Louise explained that in addition to providing activities, the co-ordinators are trained in counselling – and are often able to encourage patients to talk with each other to share their concerns and experiences. This is something that can’t happen ordinarily, as teenagers would (depending on their age) either be treated in a paediatric or adult ward.

The School Room is bright but in need of refurbishment

The School Room is bright but in need of refurbishment

The TCT Ward was the first of its kind in the country, set up 21 years ago. In 2005 it moved to UCH from the Middlesex Hospital and, whilst bright and less institutional than most hospital spaces (with coloured lighting, large graphic murals on the wall etc) it does not begin to compare to the newer centre across the road for outpatients. Ronald explained that, due to the nature of the care offered in this ward (with some transplant patients requiring isolation for up to three months), there would always be a ‘hospital’ feel – but that the design of the centre was unusual – brighter than an adult ward and less ‘cartooney’ than a children’s ward – just the right sort of space to appeal to teenage patients and make them feel as at home as possible. The Day Room and the School Room would in particular benefit from refurbishment. We hope the May Fair raises enough money to help with the refurbishment of these spaces.

As well as building and maintaining the ward, the TCT provide Sky TV, broadband and laptops for patients to use – allowing them to stay connected to their friends – particularly vital for those in the side rooms, recovering from transplant surgery. The ward is also equipped with facilities for parents and carers. A vending machine is provided by Tesco, with specially selected food to appeal to teenagers, but which has been approved by a dietician – such as cola and ‘cheese strings’ – which help to cater for the sugar and protein ‘bursts’ that are often necessary to stop feelings of nausea after chemotherapy – which can often arise at any time (usually in the middle of the night when the shops and hospital canteen are closed).

Visiting the ward, meeting the staff and patients was so inspiring. We are pleased to be supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust as the main beneficiary from our May Fair this year. We hope we raise a record amount!

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