A story of the Teddy Bears
After a journey of over 4300 miles 13 cuddly bears arrived at St Mary’s Hospital Lacor on Monday. They had flown over land and sea, languished in Kampala while Customs & Excise decided whether they needed work or tourist visas and finally, 3 weeks after they left the UK, made the hardest bit of the journey over the potholes and gravel roads to the children’s ward.
Toys are a bit of an enigma here; I have seen children playing with inflated plastic bags as if it were a balloon or simply sitting on the ground moving a pile of stones from one place to the next. Previous experience has taught us that they need encouragement to use the toys but cuddly bears needed no introduction. Something to cuddle when you’re not feeling well is welcome the world over; likewise something colourful to brighten your day when the chemotherapy is making you feel weak is always held tightly.
As Sister Clare handed out the bears to their new owners, or should we say carers, smiles broke out everywhere, even the boys liked their new friend. The attendants were smiling, some were singing and clapping and there was even ululating (a unique African high-pitched trilling) to express their huge appreciation. Our smallest patient clasped his bear in both arms and hung on tight; too young to say thank you this gesture nevertheless left no doubt about his feelings. The bears will be loved and treasured I’m sure, already I’ve seen children intermittently tucking them back into their bags for safe-keeping.
We are looking after extremely sick children but it is always good to be reminded that while chemotherapy can save lives, the gift of a soft toy can have an equally big impact on a small child.
Nick and Emma
Acknowledgement: The INCTR Challenge Fund wishes to thank the Teddies for Tragedies (www.teddiesfortragedies.org.uk) for donating the hand-made bears; thank Nick and Emma, visiting ER nurse and doctor from the UK, for their assistance in helping these bears to find their new owners; last but not least, thank CNMF for helping with this teddy bear mission.