When patients and parents ask "Why?"
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Republished online as originally printed in the Post-Gazette Oct. 7, 1997.
As a Children's Hospital chaplain, the Rev. Leslie Reimer, an Episcopal priest, is faced daily with mostly unanswerable questions by young patients and their families.
Reimer and Sister Nora Egan, part-time chaplain brought in by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, say that often the best they can do is just "be there."
Sometimes, parents ask if their children's tragic illness is a punishment. Or is it meant to teach them a lesson? Or is it just because they're bad people?
Children, too, ask many of the same questions.
"There is no reason," Reimer said. "This is random."
As a result, parents often view themselves as having "lost control, of falling apart," said Egan.
They become vulnerable once they have learned about their child's serious diagnosis.
But they become strong, too, she said.
"I'm not sure they realize how wonderful they really are, how much strength and hope they have to give," Egan said.
Reimer and Egan encourage parents to participate in support groups so they can share information, as well as their fears.
"They need to talk about their feelings, which are normal and natural," Egan said.
At the same time, parents often are comforted knowing how their children's illnesses affect other people, Reimer said.
"These times draw out a tremendous amount of support that is helpful," she said.
Friends and family pitch in to take care of siblings at home, to prepare meals, to run errands - and to pray, Egan said.
"And people find for themselves that their priorities have shifted, that as hard as they battle to beat the disease, they can find an inner strength," Egan said.
For more information, call:
• American Cancer Society patient Services, (412) 261-4352.
• Burger King Cancer Caring Center, (412) 622-1212.
• The Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, (412) 344-9823 or (800) 366-2223.
• Leukemia Society of America, Western Pennsylvania chapter, (412) 263-2873.
• Leukaemia Research fund web page, (www.leukaemia.demon.co.uk/index.htm)
• Medical costs: From July 28 to Sept. 11, the most recent bills available: more than $32,000.
• Health Insurance: Select Blue through Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has covered all medical costs, except for nominal copayments for doctors' visits. Not included are parking fees at Children's Hospital and incidentals.
• Blood counts when first diagnosed:
- Red blood cell count: 4.9 per deciliter - normal range is 12 to 14 per deciliter.
- Platelet count: 25,000 - normal range is 150,000.
- White blood cells that were leukemic: 95 percent.
Blood counts after nine weeks of chemotherapy and steroids:
- Red blood count, 10.8 per deciliter.
- Platelet count: 307,000.
- White blood cells that were leukemic: None visible.
Chances of survival, 92 percent, based on his response to chemotherapy and steroids.?
First Published June 17, 2009 12:00 am