The year’s first quarter has proved busy and exciting for Surgeons for Little Lives, as the organisation enjoys the successes of its key projects.
Chief among these is the Paediatric Surgery Outpatient Department (PSOPD), a new addition to the Paediatric Surgery Ward at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. This facility was completed in November 2017 and opened that same month, representing a first for the hospital, which caters for children from infancy up to 10 years. The highlight of the PSOPD is a sleepover facility for parents; a feature which has changed the nature of patient care at the hospital. In the past, children were unavoidably separated from their parents while undergoing treatment, as there was no room where parents could stay overnight in the hospital. This situation was unpleasant but manageable for families who stayed nearby; but for the many parents who lived outside of the hospitals referral area, often in other provinces, it created additional stress and unhappiness at an already tense time. More than 55 parents have stayed at the facility since it opened its doors, spending on average five to seven nights. The PSOPD has also treated approximately 1500 outpatients since opening its doors.
Surgeons for Little Lives is now looking towards its next big project: the build and roll out of a Lactation Unit and Breastmilk Bank at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital. This venture is being undertaken in conjunction with the South African Breastmilk Reserve and once again Mediclinic have partnered with SfLLS, providing all of the logistical support and expertise necessary to successfully complete such major undertakings. The Gauteng Department of Health’s MEC is fully supportive of this next ground breaking project. The facility is intended to provide vital pre- and post-natal care to mothers and newborns, and will offer a safe, supportive environment to promote and facilitate breastfeeding as the healthiest choice for babies. Surgeons for Little Lives has embarked on a fundraising drive for this project, and hopes to commence construction on the facility shortly.
The organisation is also working to establish a dedicated Paediatric Burns Theatre and Recovery Room. This will be a critical addition to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, given the prevalence of burns amongst children in Gauteng. Unfortunately, affected children are currently treated in a theatre also used by adult patients. This limits the time available to paediatric patients, which could prove highly detrimental to their recovery, as the nature of their wounds means that they require round-the-clock care. Added to this, it increases the risk of cross-infection from bacteria often introduced by adult patients. The theatre would be a welcome addition to the Paediatric Burns Unit which, thanks to the efforts of Surgeons for Little Lives and the placement of Paediatric Intensive Care staff within the unit, has made enormous strides in reducing patient mortality.
In the meantime, Surgeons for Little Lives has introduced a number of initiatives which, although smaller in scope, have had a massive impact on their young patients’ healing. These include joining forces with the Spur Foundation to sponsor an outdoor playground, as the well as the launch of Expressive Arts, a programme which uses drama as a vehicle to teach and rehabilitate burn patients. Finally, the organisation’s launch of admission and discharge packs (respectively containing toothbrush and toothpaste, brush, facecloth, lotion, soap and pyjamas; and a set of clothes to wear home, a toy, colouring in book, stationery and a snack) has proved a big hit amongst the patients.
Each of these interventions has gone a very long way to make sure that time in hospital – a time which can be frightening for any patient, but especially for children – is made as comfortable as possible. And as all of us who has ever slept with a night light or cuddled a blankie knows, that can make all the difference.