A day in the life of a child at a St. Jude’s center –
6AM It may seem early, but our centre wakes up at the crack of dawn especially when children have to go to the hospital for their medical treatment. Luckily, there is no major rush to the bathrooms because we have running water and adequate cubicles for bathing. So while some members of a family brush their teeth, the others can bathe.
7AM Our mothers are in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for their families. They also pack up some lunch for the children while they are waiting at the hospital.
7:30AM All the children sit in their hot water tubs as advised by their oncologists before they bathe and get ready.
8AM The families get into our transport vehicles or SAGA bus from where they are taken to the hospital for treatment.
9AM-11AM All the children who stay back in the Centre spend time playing carom or learning some art and craft activity. This is the time when we encourage the mother and the child to spend quality time with one another.
1PM-2PM Lunch time when the families return from the hospital.
2PM-4PM Rest. While the children are resting, some fathers are busy doing the rounds of trusts and funds that offer financial assistance for medical treatment for our children. The mothers are free to rest or join in some group activity like embroidery or basket weaving.
4PM-7PM The children are encouraged to study. Our job is to keep them learning while they are with us so that they go back to school happily when they return home. If there are older children who need help with academics, we figure out a way to help them. So basically we focus on “Holistic Engaging Education”. Theme based learning, e.g. color – everything is taught to the child on colour. All the activities are designed around the theme. After that it is playtime in the garden or some planned activity like Yoga, Art-based therapy, families who need counseling, are given advice by our centre counselors/managers.
8PM-10PM After dinner, the families often spend time in the community space chatting and exchanging news of the day.
10PM Lights out!
This is the schedule followed to help children like Sita and
Sita is a nine-year-old girl from Ratnagiri district, daughter of Sakharam and Shaku, who are landless labourers. One day, suddenly, Sita vomited blood. The local doctors advised taking her to Mumbai. After visits to municipal hospitals, they came to Tata Memorial Hospital. The doctors diagnosed that Sita suffered from acute lymphoblastic cancer. She would need to stay in Mumbai for six months for treatment. Her parents were mortified. First, their daughter had the dreaded cancer. Second, they were very poor.
Third, they had no place to stay. What could they do, to save their daughter? Social workers advised them to visit a facility called, “St. Jude”, located at the Cancer Research Society. Sita’s parents were amazed by the cleanliness and brightness of the place. After studying the case, the staff said Sita and her parents could stay at St Jude for six months. Sita’s parents asked about the cost.
The reply stunned them: they wouldn’t have to pay anything. They were escorted to a clean room. It had a bed for Sita, mattresses for them, a cupboard for clothes, towels, a cabinet for medicines. There were clean bed sheets, curtains and even colourful toys for Sita. The walls were painted sunny yellow, bringing a bright cheer to the premises. Shaku received a “starter-kit”, jars filled with rice, lentils, sugar, oil, biscuits, spices and even utensils and soap. The toilets and laundry areas were immaculately clean.
Like Sakharam and Shaku, Mandal was devastated when his only daughter, Tinku, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. A farmer from Durgapur in West Bengal, Mandal was advised to bring Tinku to Mumbai for treatment. Although treatment at Tata Memorial Hospital came as a boon for the family, the high cost of living in the city only added to Mandal’s woes.
“I had to sell my land back home to fund the trip to Mumbai. Initially, I had taken up a room at Rs 5,000 per month, but it was too expensive to continue there. At one time, I could not even afford a meal,” said Mandal who had almost given up on continuing the treatment due to the lack of funds. But St. Jude’s came to his rescue just as it did for Sita’s parents and 200 other famiies.
Even doctors have good things to say about St. Jude’s services. Says Dr. S D Banavali from the Tata Memorial Hospital, “Centers like St. Judes, where there is a clean hygienic atmosphere helps them to respond to treatment. Also because they have a place to stay, they come for regular followup, which also inturn helps to improve the long-term outcome of children with cancer.”