Alberta Children’s Hospital staff improvise to treat a radioactive boy

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WATCH ABOVE: Four-year-old Ashton was diagnosed with an extremely dangerous form of cancer. His treatment would be so radioactive, Ashton would become dangerous to his family and staff at the children’s hospital. What followed was a first-of-its-kind plan to help make him better – Sep 30, 2016

Staff at the Alberta Children’s Hospital were presented with a unique and even dangerous problem; four-year-old Ashton Leeds had something almost unheard of for a child: stage-four thyroid cancer.

“For him to have survived that level of cancer is unheard of” patient care manager Emma Folz said.

As part of his treatment, Ashton had to drink a cocktail of radioactive iodine. He became so radioactive he was a danger to others. For the first time ever, staff at the Alberta Children’s Hospital built a special room for Ashton to live in.

Four-year-old Ashton Leeds in his special room at the Alberta’s Children Hospital. Supplied

“We actually lined this whole room with plastic and a special kind of paper. Radioactive shields were put up around the surrounding rooms, to keep staff and other patients safe,” Folz said.

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Ashton would live in this room, on his own, for a whole week – but his dad was right next door.

“He wasn’t much of a hugger, but he was always asking if I could come give him a hug,” Shayne Leeds said.

To keep Ashton busy, he was given rewards for doing things right. The end result was a room full of Lego.

“He loved to build Lego, so we had Lego in here for his heart’s content, every single day,” child life therapist Cathy Smith said.

Ashton handled the week on his own with flying colours. His health continues to improve and he’s even back playing hockey. Staff at the hospital also learned a lot and will be even better for the next “Lego room” patient.