Pe­di­atric can­cer pa­tients get some su­per in­spi­ra­tion

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS -

Su­per­heroes are of­fer­ing more than just en­ter­tain­ment to young can­cer pa­tients in Brazil. Thanks to some South Amer­i­can “mad men,” they’re get­ting some in­spi­ra­tion and en­cour­age­ment, too.

A.C. Ca­margo Can­cer Cen­ter in São Paolo reached out to its ad­ver­tis­ing agency, JWT Brazil, seek­ing a way to make chemo­ther­apy less trau­ma­tiz­ing for its pe­di­atric pa­tients. The agency then teamed up with an­other of its clients, Warner Bros.—the par­ent com­pany of DC Comics—and pro­duced a se­ries of shells for in­tra­venous bags in­spired by su­per­heroes. The shells fea­ture the lo­gos of Bat­man, the Green Lantern, Su­per­man and Won­der Woman.

The hos­pi­tal then dubbed the dec­o­rated IVs as “Su­per­for­mula,” a nod to the spe­cial po­tions that have given many heroes their pow­ers. The agency also de­vel­oped comic books in Por­tuguese and an­i­mated car­toons in which the heroes strug­gle with ex­pe­ri­ences that mir­ror the can­cer pa­tients. The heroes even­tu­ally re­cover their strength thanks to the Su­per­for­mula, which serves to help en­cour­age young pa­tients to be­lieve in the treat­ment.

The cross­over didn’t stop there. The hos­pi­tal also dec­o­rated its doors and cor­ri­dors with the su­per­hero theme, trans­form­ing its game room into the Hall of Jus­tice, the home of su­per­heroes in comics’ Jus­tice League.

Hos­pi­tal of­fi­cials said the pro­ject helps chil­dren un­der­stand the treat­ments and gives them strength. That’s enough to make the most stub­born fan­boy melt. “Pa­tients are the real su­per­heroes, and their power is to be­lieve in heal­ing,” said Ce­cilia Lima da Costa, A.C. Ca­margo’s di­rec­tor of pe­di­atric on­col­ogy.

When Flip­per is your birthing coach ...

With sum­mer near­ing, Out­liers could re­ally use a va­ca­tion. In Hawaii, say. Ah …. Waikiki beach, lu­aus, hula danc­ing, pina co­ladas, surf­ing. And dol­phins!

But while swim­ming with Flip­per is a pas­time for many a trop­i­cal va­ca­tioner, some women are en­gag­ing with the su­per­s­mart wa­ter mam­mals a bit dif­fer­ently: for “dol­phin-at­tended” births. Ac­cord­ing to Star New­land and Michael Hyson of the Sir­ius In­sti­tute in Puna, Hawaii, “some three decades of re­search and the ex­pe­ri­ence of thou­sands of births has shown un­der­wa­ter birth is bet­ter for the mother and the baby.” The pair says it all has to do with buoy­ancy. “Un­der­wa­ter births in the Black Sea have been done for some 30 years and have shown that the chil­dren born in the wa­ter with the dol­phins de­velop six months faster over their first six months.”

The Char­lotte (N.C.) Ob­server re­cently ded­i­cated a story on one cou­ple fly­ing thou­sands of miles to de­liver with the help of dol­phins. “It is about re­con­nect­ing as hu­mans with the dol­phins so we can co­ex­ist in this world to­gether and learn from one an­other,” Heather Bar­ringer told the news­pa­per. “It’s to­tal re­lax­ation for the mother,” hus­band Adam said. “Dol­phins are very in­tel­li­gent and heal­ing, which in turn calms mother and baby for the whole process,” Heather added.

If in­ter­act­ing with Flip­per is that re­lax­ing dur­ing child­birth, Out­liers can only imag­ine what it might do for ev­ery­day stress. Now why wasn’t dol­phin-as­sisted re­lax­ing in­cluded as an es­sen­tial health ben­e­fit for all health plans next year?

Smelling the po­ten­tial to fight malaria

Out­liers was in­trigued to learn that the an­swer to bat­tling malaria may have been right at our feet all along. Sci­en­tists say the stench of hu­man feet could be a po­tent new tool to fight the deadly mos­quito-borne dis­ease that is es­ti­mated to kill more than 600,000 peo­ple a year. “Smelly feet have a use af­ter all,” Dr. James Lo­gan, who headed the re­search at the Lon­don School of Hy­giene and Trop­i­cal Medicine, told the As­so­ci­ated Press. “Ev­ery time we iden­tify a new part of how the malaria mos­quito in­ter­acts with us, we’re one step closer to con­trol­ling it bet­ter.”

In a lab­o­ra­tory study, re­searchers found that mos­qui­toes in­fected with the trop­i­cal dis­ease were more at­tracted to hu­man odors from a dirty sock than those that didn’t carry malaria. In­sects car­ry­ing malaria par­a­sites were three times more likely to be drawn to the stinky stock­ings.

The find­ing may help cre­ate traps that tar­get only malaria-car­ry­ing mos­qui­toes, re­searchers say. The sock find­ings were pub­lished re­cently in the jour­nal PLoS One.

Lo­gan said the next step is to iden­tify the chem­i­cals in hu­man foot odor so that it can be made syn­thet­i­cally for mos­quito traps. But given mos­qui­toes’ highly de­vel­oped sense of smell, get­ting that for­mula right will be chal­leng­ing. Some smelly cheeses have the same odor as feet, Lo­gan noted. “But mos­qui­toes aren’t at­tracted to cheese be­cause they’ve evolved to know the dif­fer­ence,” he said. “You have to get the mix­ture, ra­tios and con­cen­tra­tions of those chem­i­cals ex­actly right oth­er­wise the mos­quito won’t think it’s a hu­man.”

The dec­o­rated IV bag shells are one way that A.C. Ca­margo Can­cer Cen­ter helps young pa­tients cope.


Watch out, malaria mos­qui­toes. You may have met your match.

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