Housed at the back of our main children’s wards at St Peter’s Hospital is Little Oaks, a ward where around 35 very special children and their families are cared for by our paediatric oncology team. Paediatric Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Lizzie Sturt explains: “As any parent can imagine, learning that your child has cancer turns your world upside down and it is the start of a very long journey with many challenges along the way. We are here to do everything we can to support these children and their families both clinically and holistically and to make that journey a little bit easier.”
After diagnosis, children are managed and receive most of their treatment at a principal treatment centre, such as Great Ormond Street Hospital. However, those big centres work very closely with local Paediatric Oncology Shared Care Units (POSCUs), such as Little Oaks.
Lizzie adds: “Children undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy will be immuno-compromised and more susceptible to illness, which can be very serious. Little Oaks provides all the supportive and protective care around cancer treatment, including antibiotics and blood products. We also give basic chemotherapy and do long term follow-up surveillance. Providing this service locally means our families do not have to travel into London each time.”
However the work of Lizzie and the team extends much beyond these practical services. She adds: “Our role is as much about support and reassurance for our families, as it is about clinical care. Spending time with upset and worried parents, taking the time to talk, listen and reassure is a vital part of the job. It’s impossible to not become emotionally close to our families and sharing laughter and tears is very much part of life on Little Oaks.” Enhancing the work of the team all the way is the official Little Oaks charity Momentum. Momentum provides on-going support to children and their families – whether this is a cup of tea and a chat, or one of the holidays, treats and trips the charity provide throughout the year.
Pictured above, Momentum recently refurbished and greatly improved the treatment room next to Little Oaks. They are now fundraising £65,000 to re-design and transform the rest of the Oncology Unit, to include a walled-off, private examination area, install two new reclining treatment chairs, remodel the ‘chill out’ area for teenagers and create a new play space for the younger children. This will make a huge difference to our patients and their families.