June 20, 2019 8:48 pm
Updated: June 20, 2019 9:20 pm

New pediatric oncology room opens at Vernon Jubilee Hospital

Watch: Pediatric oncology room aims to make life a little easier for children battling cancer and their families.

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A cancer diagnosis can be devastating at any age, but when kids get sick, it can put serious emotional and physical strains on their families.

A new dedicated pediatric oncology room officially opened at Vernon Jubilee Hospital on Thursday.

The goal of the new space is to make life a little easier for kids receiving cancer treatment and their families.

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“It provides a quiet, safe space to receive their chemotherapy,” said pediatrician Dr. Michael Cooke.

A childhood cancer diagnosis in the North Okanagan often puts a financial and emotional strain on families who have to go out of town for initial treatments.

“You come in unexpectedly, get diagnosed with cancer and all of a sudden your life just explodes. You end up down in Vancouver for six months [or] maybe closer to a year,” said Cooke.

While kids cancer treatment away from the Okanagan is still a reality, when families are able to return to Vernon, the hope is that the new pediatric oncology room will make life easier when they need further medical help at home.

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Previously, children’s chemotherapy in Vernon was done in another part of the hospital. Now, kids will get their treatment in the dedicated pediatric oncology room at the hospital’s cancer centre.

The room has a TV and video-game system to keep kids minds off the treatment.

Cancer center manager Carolynn Russell explained that in the past, families that could afford it would bring their own entertainment in. But since traveling to Vancouver for initial treatment already stretches families’ finances, some could not afford to bring in DVD players or a video-game system to help kids pass the time.

Now, that type of entertainment will be on hand for all kids.

Meanwhile, the walls are adorned by a mural and paintings that students at Vernon Christian School spent more than 150 hours completing.

Faith, one of the student artists, said they designed the fairy tale inspired mural to have as many components as possible, so every time patients looked at it they were able to see something new.

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The private space also has seats for family to support patients.

“Treating children with cancer, you are actually treating the whole family,” said Cooke.

“[Patients] often have siblings that are separated from them . . . so having a place where everybody can be together in a nice relaxed environment is really important.”

The nearly $100,000 project was funded through community donations.

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Most of the money, $94,000, was raised through a radiothon hosted by a Vernon station in April 2018.

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