Beryl Thyer Memorial Africa Trust: supporting African children that suffer from Burkitt lymphoma cancer

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“We Care” Parent Hostel, Mbingo Baptist Hospital, N.W.Cameroon

Many people have asked for an update on the “We Care” Parent home. The roof is on and windows and door frames about to be fitted. It was last May whilst in Cameroon that I received an email from the Good News Evangelical Foundation granting £15000 towards the construction of this building. I showed the email to Joe Dixon, Programme Manager of the charity, World Child Cancer who immediately offered to match this. Our plan is now to make the “official” opening in May 2017. Mothers of children with cancer will no longer have to camp out in the hospital grounds but will have accommodation with their own separate firewood cooking facilities – African style. Children undergoing chemotherapy will be able to join mother between drug infusions thus reducing our bed occupancy and hopefully our hospital costs.

"We Care" Parent Hostel for mothers of children with cancer at MBH

"We Care" Parent Hostel for mothers of children with cancer at MBH

Paul Wharin, December 2016

“This sick be not witchcraft. Take pekin for Baptist Hospital”

So say members of our parent groups to the guardian of a child suffering from suspected cancer.

On the 18th November we travelled to Ntaba, a large village near the Nigerian border to visit one of our parent groups. The leader, Paul Tanwarong had invited a prominent local village practitioner/bush doctor (described by Paul as a “sorcerer”) to meet us. We asked questions about his practice and he told us that his most frequent diagnosis is “witchcraft”. Some of our Baptist medical colleagues will have nothing to do with these men but their “professional” organisation is recognised by the government and they are all men of standing in their communities, their “skills” being passed from father to son. We prefer to get alongside, to educate and show them that there is a better way – though we have to confess that we cannot always cure even with our “powerful” medicine. I asked him to please send any pekin (child) with “big face” or “big belly” to Banso Baptist Hospital.

At Ntaba village. In the centre: the village practitioner (red shirt), Prof Hesseling (with stick) and Paul Tanwarong

At Ntaba village. In the centre: the village practitioner (red shirt), Prof Hesseling (with stick) and Paul Tanwarong

Paul Wharin, December 2016

Retinoblastoma, the eye cancer

On our November 2016 visit to the three hospitals of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Service, Prof Peter Hesseling and I were accompanied by Prof Mariana Kruger, the present head of paediatrics and child health at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Hospital, Cape Town. Mariana is an expert on the eye cancer, retinoblastoma and is responsible for the protocol with which we have treated treated this cancer since 2013. At Mutengene Baptist Hospital, S.W.Cameroon we met a boy called Remond aged 18 months who was receiving chemotherapy for retinoblastoma.  Remond and his mother are pygmies from the Baka people of S.E.Cameroon. They are genetically one of the most ancient people groups in Africa, second only to the bushmen of the Kalahari. Remond was found by 2 Catholic sisters who had heard that treatment for this cancer was freely available at Mbingo Baptist Hospital, N.W.Cameroon. They arrived at Mbingo only to find that the ophthalmic surgeon was away and so came all the way south to Mutengene. Remond and his parents have little money even for food and are being supported by the congregation of a local Baptist church. The ophthalmic surgeon, Dr Emmanuel Tambe makes no charge for surgical treatment and our charity (BTMAT) freely provides chemotherapy drugs and pays in-patient treatment costs. I find this a remarkable story of Christian compassion at work – and of advocacy for our programme.  How did the Catholic sisters know about our work?

Prof Hesseling, Remond and his mother, Prof Kruger

Prof Hesseling, Remond and his mother, Prof Kruger

Paul Wharin, December 2016

The Parent Home at Mbingo Baptist Hospital: an Update

Archive for January 2016 described our vision and design for a hostel (parent home) at Mbingo Baptist Hospital (MBH), our main childhood cancer treatment centre – for mothers or guardians of children with cancer. The plans were approved and costed in 2015 and the foundations of this 16-room building were laid earlier this year – at a cost well within the original budget.  We received the wonderful news earlier this month (June) that the UK charity, GoodNews Evangelical Foundation would grant us (BTMAT) £15000 towards building costs! This generous offer has now been matched by our friends at the charity, World Child Cancer!  Building work is being undertaken by the Cameroon Baptist Convention (MBH) building team supervised by the MBH architect, an old friend and colleague of ours. Our hope is that work will be complete by the time of my next visit to Cameroon in November!


Foundations in place!

Paul Wharin  (June 2016)

HIV/AIDS and Cancer

Looking back over the last 9 years the most enjoyable experiences of my biannual trips to Cameroon have been outreach visits into the bush to find children whom we have treated for cancer. We go armed with a photo of the child, a village name and sometimes the mobile phone number of a parent or neighbour. A useful tactic is to go to the nearest school and present the photo. Someone will say, “I know that pekin: I will take you for house”.  This often means 2 people sitting on the front passenger seat of our vehicle and 4 in the back!

On Tuesday 31st May our palliative care nurse Joel Kaah and I visited the home of an HIV+ve child treated for Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer secondary to HIV/AIDS. This 11-year old girl received 4 courses of chemotherapy in 2015 (drug & in-patient costs paid by BTMAT). Both parents had died of HIV/AIDS and grandmother had become the chief carer. She was well – and I made sure that she had a secure supply of antiretroviral drugs (AIDS treatment).

On Friday June 3rd we visited a 10-year old girl, also HIV+ve who had been treated for Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL) in 2008. She too was well. I remembered admitting this girl to hospital in June 2008, the year I travelled alone to Cameroon. It was good to see my handwriting in the notes – but better by far to find that both she and her mother were well.

Of 1000 children that we have treated for BL our records show that just under 720 were tested for HIV – with 11 positive results, giving a prevalence of 1.5%. This approximates to that of the general population (children 0-15 years) where the prevalence is 1%.  These HIV+ve children have fared well with chemotherapy.  In our experience HIV does not adversely affect the outcome of treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma. We will continue to give chemotherapy to HIV+ve children with cancer.

lots of children looking at the camera

Every home visit attracts attention!

Paul Wharin (June 2016)