A Test of our Resilience: Cancer care in the times of COVID
“That which does not break us makes us stronger.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
The coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented challenge for St. Judes and the rest of the world. No playbook or guide existed on how to manage this once-in-a-century event which posed an existential crisis to many organizations. At St. Judes, we adapted quickly and provided care to the children undergoing treatment for cancer throughout the pandemic. Our staff showed great resilience in ensuring that all our centres continued to function safely and effectively.
As soon as we heard of the pandemic hitting our shores, we advised all our non-centre staff to avoid public transport and work from home until further notice. At the centres, we revamped our operating protocols to ensure minimal transmission through contact surfaces. We worked closely with partner hospitals to put in place protocols to restrict group activity and stop the spread of the virus.
The whole team rose to the occasion admirably – our staff, the hospitals, volunteers, security, drivers, housekeeping staff and even the families at our centres. The flame of purpose was rekindled in all of us. During the lockdown, when movement of people was severely restricted, our staff voluntarily chose to stay on at the centres in teams to ensure the centres operated smoothly. On days when no staff could travel to the centres, parent monitors from among the families ensured that there were no disruptions in the operations at the centres. To facilitate education and recreation for the kids online, restrictions on children's use of mobile phone devices were relaxed. We procured hundreds of tablets so that the children can continue their classes online.
Our partner hospitals encouraged patients to move to teleconsultation so that they could minimize travelling during this period. They set up Outpatient Departments at our centres so that the children could avoid coming into crowded hospitals. We worked with several partners and dedicated individuals to make medicines available to children in villages and small towns to ensure that they can continue their treatment. Our drivers selflessly donned PE suits to transport those who had tested positive to quarantine centres and treatment centres.
We prepared carefully for the possibility that a child or parent could become infected, especially since our children have low immunity due to chemotherapy and are highly vulnerable to secondary infections. When the first case was diagnosed at St. Judes, we were ready with our Emergency Response Plan and quickly took appropriate steps.. Our Team Members reached out to the best doctors in the country to advise us on the protocols to be followed to reduce transmission at our centres.
When the second wave of the pandemic hit, we were prepared. The second wave hit harder; thirteen of our staff members lost loved ones. But the centres were not closed for a single day.
Thanks to the support of our partner hospitals, most of the staff and families at our centres have now been vaccinated. Like the rest of the world, we are now preparing for a world in which Covid-19 has become an endemic disease, and we have to learn to live with the virus. Many of us will bear the psychological and physiological scars for a long time to come, but each of us has emerged stronger.
- Mukeeta Jhaveri,
St. Jude India ChildCare Centres
- Anil Nair,
St.Jude India ChildCare Centres