Seriously ill young patients at Epsom Hospital are being given special beads to help keep track of their treatment journey and to help them share their unique stories.
Introduced in the UK by the charity Be Child Cancer Aware, Beads of Courage was first launched in the USA as part of an arts-in-medicine programme to help children and teens coping with cancer and other serious illness ‘record, tell and own their stories of courage’. Jo Dodge, Play Specialist at Epsom Hospital, explained: “As with anyone undergoing treatment for cancer or serious illness, the children we look after have a lot to contend with. Beads of Courage is a way of helping them, and others, to celebrate their achievements and recognise every milestone they reach.
“There are around 30 beads available, in a range of colours and designs, each of which represents a different achievement or stage in their treatment. The children are given a daily bead journal, which they use to keep a record of each procedure they undergo, as well as any special milestones such as a particular act of courage or completing their treatment. Every child has their name spelled out in beads, and they then go on to organise their collection however they like, building a story that is very personal to them.
“It’s great to be able to give the children something to focus on that isn’t just clinical – the programme has been shown to help reduce anxiety and distress, as well as helping children to understand what they are going through and giving them a tool to explain it to themselves and others.”
Six year-old Rhea Oke was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which affects the lymphocytes (the white blood cells mostly used to fight viral infections), in December 2015. Mum Carley Oke explained: “Rhea is six months into her treatment and has been tracking her progress with her Beads of Courage. The beads help us give extra encouragement to Rhea when she is going through different treatments or procedures, and it means she gets a little reward every time she achieves something.
“Rhea is an inspiration – the strength and maturity she has shown through all this has kept everyone around her so strong. It doesn’t matter where she is or what she’s doing, there’s always a massive smile on her face to brighten up the room. Rhea is our little star and she’s truly amazing.”
Beads of Courage was introduced at Epsom Hospital thanks to Be Child Cancer Aware, which has sponsored the hospital to be part of the programme throughout the year 2016-17. Head of Nursing for Paediatrics Lorna Bramwells said: “We are delighted to have introduced Beads of Courage, and on behalf of the team and our patients, I’d like to thank Be Child Cancer Aware for their support.
“We hope to secure sponsorship for the coming years too, as this is such an important initiative. Each bead represents something very personal and special to our patients, and they should be proud of every one they collect and all of the inspiring achievements they represent.”
You can find out more about Beads of Courage and the work of Be Child Cancer Aware by visiting www.bechildcanceraware.org/beads-of-courage/.