Emotional Support – Professional:

No parent is ready to hear, “Your child has cancer”. It is one of the single most overwhelming experiences one can possibly face. You feel completely alone and lost in the world. The CHOC Psychosocial team helps make the journey a little more bearable and not so lonely.

The diagnosis of cancer or a life-threatening blood disorder in a child is devastating with far-reaching psychosocial and emotional implications for the child and family. The CHOC Psychosocial Support Programme consists of a team of social workers/counsellors and social auxiliary workers who are based at the paediatric oncology units to provide psychosocial and emotional support to the patients and their families throughout their cancer journey. Their intervention alleviates the impact of the diagnosis and treatment and helps the families to access internal and external resources, which helps them to come to terms with and take ownership of their situation. In instances where the outcome of treatment is not positive the social worker/counsellor facilitates palliative, end-of-life care to ensure quality of life and dignity during the dying process. Bereavement support is provided afterwards to help families through this very difficult time.

CHOC Gauteng South Region has two social workers and two social auxiliary workers. One of each are serving Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH) and Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH). The Eastern Cape Region has two CHOC social workers, one serving Frere Hospital in East London and another PE Provincial Hospital in Port Elizabeth. The Free State and Namakwa Region has one CHOC social worker serving Universitas Academic Hospital. The Northern Region has a child and family support counsellor serving both Netcare Unitas Hospital and Steve Biko Academic Hospital. KwaZulu-Natal has one CHOC social worker serving both Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital and Netcare Parklands Hospital.

Non-Professional Emotional Support

We recognise the inevitable turmoil to family life when a child faces vigorous and often lengthy treatment and thus extend comprehensive support to the families. We have support groups such as Survivors, Parent-Supporting-Parent, Volunteers, Bereavement support and interactive play activities at the Paediatric Oncology units. This support is one of the core services provided in the regions. The regions host parent groups monthly to address concerns in a light-hearted environment that brings emotional relief to the families yet addresses crucial concerns that parents face. Weekly tea and sandwiches are served regionally to parents and children at the wards and outpatient clinics.

The CHOC Interactive Play Programme focuses on patient skills and educational development. This is essential at those hospitals who do not have a hospital school. The lengthy period of time that the children are out of school creates many challenges and as such, we focus on skills and activities to bridge the gap.