For 17 year old Caroline Wills, being able to receive her chemotherapy at the Aberdeen Hospital means she has more time for family, school and hanging out with friends. Caroline is 18 months into a two year intensive treatment protocol for ALL, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“We were on our way to Halifax for a day of shopping with her girlfriends when the call came in,” says Caroline’s mom, Tricia. “They told me to take her to the IWK immediately.”
From that day for the next 8 weeks, Caroline never left the hospital and her mom was by her side. At that point part of her care could be transferred to the Aberdeen Hospital. It meant Caroline could return home to her family and her life.
Chemotherapy for children requires special knowledge and skills. In order to administer this treatment, nurses must be nationally certified. In 2013, The Aberdeen Health Foundation provided funding so that the oncology nursing staff could be certified to continue to provide this care at the Aberdeen Hospital.
But being back at home wouldn’t be such a relief if it weren’t for the team that is here supporting them.
Caroline’s mom Tricia looks on during Caroline’s treatment.
“Whenever I have a question or if anything seems off with Caroline, I can get her checked locally. The nurses at the Aberdeen Hospital are like the eyes and ears for the IWK. When we first came home, I had to give her two needles a day, the nurses helped me with that,” explains Tricia. Caroline’s treatment is so exacting; if she gets a cold or has a fever she has to be admitted to the Emergency Room and be treated within the hour.
“It’s such a relief to have that care here and to know there’s good communication between the IWK and the team at the Aberdeen.”
Speaking on behalf of the Health Foundation, Susan Malcolm noted that patient stories such as Caroline’s are the reason they do what they do. “We are pleased to partner with the Nova Scotia Health Authority to support the continuing education of staff as well as to provide support for new equipment at the hospital every year.”
Caroline’s treatment will finish in October 2017. When that happens she knows she’ll have even more time for all the things she loves plus some extra courses she’ll have to take to make up for the classes she’s missing now.
She’s had to go through a lot at a young age, from not knowing what to expect when the initial phone call came to being suddenly overwhelmed by looking for more information on the Internet. She spent an entire summer vacation in the hospital and has endured long, tiring days of treatments that make her feel sick and lose her hair. Despite all this, she speaks of all the things she has gained.
“My thoughts towards everything have changed. I’m a completely different person now for the better. The little things I thought were a big deal when I was younger, I realize were not a big deal at all.”
While Caroline appreciates being close to home and having a consistent care team she’s been able to get to know, she’s looking forward to the day when she doesn’t need to be near a hospital any longer. “I’m looking forward to having more freedom, more time with my friends. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, that’s definitely something I’m going to do.”
Caroline Wills with two of her three-member oncology nursing team at the Aberdeen Hospital. “I love my job every day. It’s the connection we have with the patients. It’s an honour to be so involved at such an important time in their lives,” says nurse Alice Fortune, pictured at left, with nurse Ashley MacDougall.
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