Focusing on the small wins – a new ICPCN blog from Sophie Kieffer

This latest ICPCN blog from Sophie Kieffer is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Saddened and distraught by the pain and suffering of children she witnesses on her regular visits to a hospital in Kenya, she has learnt to appreciate the small wins when they come. 

Sophie is a passionate advocate for paediatric palliative care who has spent time visiting different successful paediatric palliative care programmes in Eastern and Southern Africa. She has also volunteered in similar work in South America, Nepal, and Israel. Sophie holds a Master’s degree in Global Health from Georgetown University in Washington, DC and presently works from her base in Kenya for an NGO supporting vulnerable populations in Somalia. 

She writes:

Focus on the small wins, I tell myself. The sleeping baby hugging the teddy bear you brought him. One patient pushing another in a wheelchair through the corridors. A nurse warmly greeting you with a hug at the door. Sneaking extra sweets into a patient’s hands. These are the moments that can be easily forgotten amidst the overarching sadness of a paediatric hospital ward with the smells, the cries, and the hollowed eyes.

I’m often asked how I can handle working in such an intense environment. “Wine and cheese” is my usual response! But it is really the focus on the small moments that keep me going. They have to be enough for now.

Especially for mornings like today. This was my first time visiting the burn ward at a large hospital in Kenya. As I entered the room, I was overcome by the piercing sounds of crying children. From my babysitting days, I am used to two-year-old tantrums and playground mishaps. Here, however, sheer physical pain is the driving force behind the guttural cries.

I remember being in a paediatric cancer ward in Uganda and hearing a girl scream so loudly that I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. I asked the nurse what was causing her distress and she said the cancer had gone to the child’s brain. In the bed next to her was a silent little girl, the tears already come and gone. In an attempt to make logical sense of this, I started to compare which was worse: the loud cries or the silent ones. And I realized it didn’t really matter.

Read the full blog here. 

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