An engaging programme designed to help young Walsall patients deal with cancer has passed its first anniversary – and both children and their parents have said how “proud” it makes them feel.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust’s Community Children’s Nurses (CCNs) introduced the ‘Beads of Courage’ programme in March 2021, and so far nine children in the borough have started the programme.
Beads of Courage help children record, tell and own their stories through an innovative arts in medicine programme which launched nationally.
When a child and their parent/s agrees to take part, they receive a welcome pack with their name in beads to start their collection.
The child receives a different coloured bead for every home visit and also for the many treatments the nurse provides, and can place it on a piece of string, similar to a sweetie necklace.
At the end of their treatment journey when the child receives the all clear, they receive a purple heart to complete their collection, along with the traditional ‘ringing the bell’ on the ward to celebrate being free of cancer.
So far, the programme has been a huge success, encouraging the children involved to become really engaged.
Community Children’s Nurse Emma Hattersley said: “We’ve found the children active in the programme are very much involved – as soon as you walk through their front door, they tell you what beads they need for their collection.
“There have been many stories of what the families do with the beads; some families have made table tops, picture frames or kept them on the string we also provide.”
The team provides regular home visits to children with oncology and fully explains the programme to the children and their families.
Some of the treatments children receive a bead for are:
- Accessing central lines
- Changing central line dressings
- Administering chemotherapy
- Passing a naso-gastric tube
- Hair loss or hair growth
- Nutrition and mobility
Parents also receive a bead to add to their child’s story and collection.
Patient Jacob Edwards, 11, said: “I like to collect things, so when Emma introduced me to Beads of Courage, it helped me see my journey.
“I can look back on all the things I went through and it makes me feel proud as I’ve been through so much pain. It keeps me strong and positive until the day I get my purple heart.”
Jacob’s mum Jo Golder, 49, said: “Beads of Courage represents what a strong, inspirational son I have, and when I’m feeling heartbroken, I look at all the beads and remember each bead is a symbol of his positivity, strength and pure courage he has shown along his journey so far.
Bloxwich-based Jo, an accountant for Wolverhampton City Council Children’s Services who has three other children all over 18, added: “He did that – not me. He is my brave warrior and I’m so proud he is my son.”
The programme offers hope and encouragement to families when they need it most and support to the mental health and wellbeing of seriously ill children.
Started in 2013 by three families whose children had received a cancer diagnosis, the programme is currently helping to support approximately 13,500 youngsters across Britain.
The programme, which is sponsored by Children with Cancer UK, normally costs between £3,000-£5,000, which includes full staff training, a two-year renewable license fee, the initial bead stock and full-time permanent support.
Walsall’s CCNs provide shared care for children with oncology with Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital and the programme was free.
Pictured, from left: Community Children’s Nursing Team Lead Jenny Horobin and Community Children’s Nurses Emma Hattersley, Tracey Fox and Louise Bloxham.