Meeting four-year-old Amma

Kieran is the Marketing and Communications Manager at World Child Cancer and in September he visited Ghana for the first time to witness the launch of our new three-year-project in Ghana. Alongside this, he also met many of the families and children we support, including four-year-old Amma;

“Upon visiting Ghana I expected to be saddened to see children with cancer but instead I came away inspired; by the staff, the families and the children. Despite their struggles and the difficulties of dealing with cancer, the children never stopped smiling. It was visiting Amma that encompassed everything that was so special about my trip.”

Amma lives in Apam, around 109km from Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra. Just over a year ago, Amma was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumour but despite the best efforts of the team at KBTH, she has now returned home where she is receiving palliative care.

“We set off to meet Amma and her family in the early hours of the morning, with a two-hour journey ahead of us it was also an opportunity for me to speak to Nurses Pat and Mary who joined me on the visit. They told me many stories about their combined 60+ years in nursing which we are looking forward to sharing later this year, but this day was all about Amma.”

“As we drove towards the coast and out of the city the roads became dustier and the buildings became scarcer – we were entering rural Ghana. When we reached the village I felt worried and scared about how I was going to speak to a family about their young daughter who is living with a life-limiting condition? My fears were soon allayed though, as soon as we walked through the gates Amma ran up to Nurse Pat and gave her a cuddle.”

“Meeting the family settled any worries I had. Christian, Amma’s father, was first to greet us with a smile whilst carrying their youngest child who was just a few months old. We sat on their porch as Amma spoke to Nurse Pat and I caught up with Christian about his family’s cancer journey.”

“Christian explained that he first started to worry when finding blood in his daughter’s urine and lumps in the side of her stomach. The family live close to the local hospital in Apam but despite several tests they were given no definitive answer to what was wrong with Amma.”

“Two weeks after the first tests, Christian told me they were referred to Cape Coast Hospital where more tests were carried out and they were eventually told to visit KBTH - a two hour journey by car but several more when using Ghana's public transport. Christian looked at me with sadness as he told me the family had to wait weeks before they could travel to Accra, for no other reason than that they could not afford the cost of travel.”

Christian eventually travelled to Accra without his wife as she was pregnant at the time. It was here that he was told his daughter had cancer;

“I had never heard of a child getting cancer before, the diagnosis hit me hard. When I heard the news that my child had cancer, I felt like I had already lost my daughter. The support from the team at the hospital and other parents showed me that I wasn’t alone and helped me be strong for Amma.”

“Christian did not cry when he remembered the moment his world was turned upside down. He didn’t smile, he looked at me with sadness but determination as cradled his youngest child. He told me about spending a year at KBTH whilst Amma received treatment. The friends he made with the staff and other parents had become like family to him, they would console each other and lift one another. Through times of sadness and joy, the families on the ward went through it all together.”

“Despite initially responding well to treatment, she soon relapsed.”

“I cried a lot when I found out treatment was no longer effective for my daughter. I still cry now but she is very strong. Even during treatment, her spirit remained high.”

“Throughout my conversation with Christian, Amma would wonder over to stand next to her father. Her face was innocent with a soft smile of a child that was nervous around new people but confident that she was in her own home. I clearly remember Amma giving me a high five, laughing and turning as she became shy just like any other child. This young girl may not have long to live but the care and support provided by nurses such as Pat and Mary mean that she is at least enjoying her childhood again.”

“I came with the plan of noting points to create a story to help people understand the difficulties of having a child with cancer but what I left Apam with was so much more.”

“I left with the memories of a young girl who had a faced it all. She is four-years-old and is being cared for by a family that await the inevitable but that do so with strength and courage. They are facing this battle and are smiling through the tears because this is their daughter and she deserves the opportunity to enjoy life. This little girl is one that will inspire me and I hope many others for years to come."

You can help change the lives of children with cancer for the better. Please donate today to help give the gift of growing up to children like Amma.

About the author

Kieran Sandhu

Marketing and Communications Manager