Beads of Courage A trib­ute to chol­dren’s achieve­ment

The Irish Times - Tuesday - Health - - Health | Caring For Children -

Beads of Courage is an ex­tra­or­di­nary arts-in­medicine pro­gramme in which sick chil­dren are given beads to sym­bol­i­cally rep­re­sent sig­nif­i­cant mo­ments in their treat­ment. Over time, chil­dren build up a col­lec­tion of beads that they can hold when they are scared, tell sto­ries with when they are well again or sim­ply play with when they are sick.

It sounds like a sim­ple idea but the ef­fects are pro­found. There are beads for ev­ery med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion (dress­ing change, tube or line place­ments, chemo­ther­apy ses­sion), overnight hos­pi­tal stay, care team visit or trans­fer to the pae­di­atric in­ten­sive care unit. Some chil­dren build up thou­sands of beads dur­ing their ill­ness. “One boy very proudly told me that his beads [when stretched out] ran from the front of his house to the back of his house,” says Mary Claire Ren­nick from the Child­hood Can­cer Foun­da­tion, which funds the Beads of Courage pro­gramme at Our Lady’s Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal. The chil­dren keep a log of their beads in a daily bead jour­nal so they can re­quest new beads from the play spe­cial­ist.

Ma­jella Don­aghey, mother of Jack Don­aghey (7), who re­cently fin­ished three years of treat­ment for leukemia, says the Beads of Courage were a great sup­port for Jack. “He loved tak­ing them out, count­ing them and show­ing them to his grand­par­ents and aunts. He ex­plained to peo­ple what each bead was for as if to say ‘look at all I’ve been through and how brave I’ve been’.”

The Beads of Courage pro­gramme was founded by Jean Baruch, a can­cer nurse in Tucson, Ari­zona, and is now ad­min­is­tered in more than 170 hospi­tals in the United States and more than 100 hospi­tals in Bri­tain. Beads of Courage are given to chil­dren cop­ing with can­cer, blood dis­or­ders, burn in­juries, chronic ill­nesses and fam­i­lies who have an in­fant in a neona­tal in­ten­sive-care unit.

The Beads of Courage pro­gramme for chil­dren with can­cer has been run­ning in Our Lady’s since Jan­uary 2016. There are more than 270 chil­dren with can­cer cur­rently en­rolled on the pro­gramme.

The staff in St John’s Ward are full of praise for the pro­gramme. “It’s a tan­gi­ble nar­ra­tive of the chil­dren’s ex­pe­ri­ence and a com­mem­o­ra­tion of their achieve­ment,” says Dr Capra.

Ren­nick says “chil­dren some­times bring the beads to school to ex­plain to their class­mates what hap­pened. And some par­ents go back through the beads with their chil­dren who were too young to re­alise what they were go­ing through at the time.”

Ren­nick adds that par­ents who lose a child to can­cer also get great so­lace from the beads, of­ten putting them away and tak­ing them out again to show sib­lings at a later stage.

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