Bringing care closer to home for kids with cancer

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When you have a child facing an illness, close to home is where you want to be. That’s why the POGO (Paediatric Oncology Group of Ontario) clinic located at Credit Valley Hospital provides care closer to home for kids who have been diagnosed with cancer.

The largest satellite of seven in Ontario, the POGO clinic started at Credit Valley Hospital in 2003. It provides cancer treatments for kids who have been referred by SickKids and live in Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, Caledon and surrounding areas.

“All of the children are on a treatment plan which entails several visits monthly, weekly and sometimes daily,” says Lena Lloyd, Paediatric Clinical Educator. “Before the POGO satellite at Credit Valley Hospital, families were making frequent trips to downtown Toronto to visit SickKids. By reducing the travel time, we can ease some of the stress for children and their families by providing care in their own community.”

The clinic works closely with the paediatric inpatient unit at Credit Valley Hospital and provides off-hours services for POGO patients. If kids become ill and need to be admitted to the hospital, they can be assessed directly through the paediatric inpatient unit instead of having to go through the ER.

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“This 24/7 service for POGO patients helps ease the anxiety for families because they are already familiar with the team at the paediatric inpatient unit,” says Lloyd.“This kind of comfort is a welcome relief for kids who are going through a difficult ordeal.”

In addition to clinical treatments such as chemotherapy and blood transfusions, the POGO clinic provides therapies and supports to children and their families as they continue with a complicated and emotional period of their lives.

The Camp Oochigeas In-Hospital Program, or simply “Camp Ooch” as it’s affectionately known, brings the fun of camp right to the kids at the POGO clinic. A privately-funded, volunteer-based organization, Camp Ooch provides kids affected by cancer with a unique opportunity for growth through challenging, fun, and enriching experiences. Each Monday morning, camp counsellors from Ooch arrive at the POGO clinic armed with crafts, activities, songs and games so kids can play, be creative and connect with other kids going through a similar experience.

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There’s also a teen mentoring program where teens can support one another by bonding through leisure activities.  “Teens are already facing a lot of growth changes,” says Anna Geraldes, Program Coordinator, Paediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO). “In addition to their illness, they struggle with body image and emotional issues and they need someone who can identify with what they’re experiencing.”

Six registered nurses who are all oncology certified currently provide care to over 200 children from 18 months to 18 years-old. There is also a child life specialist on site who works with the children to help normalize their experiences. The clinic accommodates over 2500 visits per year.