By Dr. Valeria Calbi – Hematologist, Project Leader at St Mary’s Hospital
Cure 250 Children with Burkitt Lymphoma in Africa
In a poor resource setting like ours, we could not provide a safe delivery of her baby at this stage in her pregnancy – 28 weeks of gestation. Since the tumor was progressing fast, it was threatening Safina’s life and that of her baby. Safina was counseled about receiving chemotherapy during pregnancy – it is safe to give most chemotherapy agents required for treating Burkitt lymphoma in the last trimester of pregnancy. And, we knew we had to start treatment as soon as possible to save both of their lives. We chose effective drugs that would cause as little harm as possible to her unborn baby. Remarkably, Safina responded to treatment and the masses in her abdomen reduced in size.
Safina’s baby girl was delivered by Cesarian section at 36 weeks of gestation. The baby was healthy. Safina continued treatment after the birth of her baby. And, we were fortunate to have support to buy costly milk formula for the baby as Safina was unable to breast feed her baby – due to the bilateral mastectomy and also because she was on chemotherapy. Safina stayed in the hospital for the entire duration of her chemotherapy – even after her baby was born.
When Safina came for follow up in January, she brought her baby. We are pleased to say that Safina is in complete remission and that her baby is walking, playing and beginning to talk calling Safina her “Ma Ma”.
The story of Safina has taught us once more, how important it is for us to raise awareness and to educate other health care professionals in our region (Northern Uganda) about Burkitt lymphoma so patients can be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible at a hospital like ours. By doing this, we hope that other patients like Safina will never need to undergo unnecessary surgery and will not suffer delays in starting appropriate treatment. Her story also taught us how important it is to sustain our patients by providing free treatment and the necessary social support throughout treatment. We realize that we must continually educate our patients and their families to ensure good adherence to treatment.
Without the donations from the many people who have contributed to this project, it would not have been possible for us to save the lives of both Safina and her baby girl. We at St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor who care for the children and adolescents with Burkitt lymphoma wish to express our gratitude and appreciation for your continued support of this project.
26th February 2015