Students brighten treatment time for young patients
By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services
(Feb. 15, 2012)
Doctor visits aren't always fun for young patients with cancer and blood diseases, but those at East Carolina University have something to help them smile thanks to the work and generosity of an academic honor society.
Students of the ECU chapter of Phi Eta Sigma, the national freshman honor society, donated their time and talent last fall to paint three exam rooms in special themes at the new pediatric hematology/oncology clinic at the Brody School of Medicine at ECU. They also used society funds to provide televisions, video players and toys at the clinic. Altogether, the project cost approximately $4,500.
"When I was given this opportunity to do this service project, I knew what I wanted to do," said Phi Eta Sigma President Julian Stalls, a 19-year-old sophomore from Williamston who was treated at ECU herself as a pediatric cancer patient. "They stay in these rooms for hours when they are here getting treated, so they need some bright colors."
Last year, the pediatric clinic moved from the Pediatric Outpatient Center into a bland space formerly occupied by the ECU surgery department. Led by Stalls, approximately 35 students worked in evenings to repaint exam rooms in jungle, undersea and ECU themes. TVs and DVD players along with iPods, games, game players, books and toys will help keep children in good spirits as they are being evaluated or receiving chemotherapy.
Pediatric staff originally asked Stalls if her group could repaint one room. Stalls insisted they do more than one room and do more than redecorate.
"It's special," said Dr. Beg Fuh, an assistant professor of pediatrics and sickle-cell disease specialist. "I think when the children come and I tell them it was a child who was treated here years ago who did this, it gives them some comfort."
Stalls' mother died of breast cancer when Stalls was 13. A few months later, Stalls was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Nevertheless, she graduated from one of the state's top high schools in Durham while commuting to Greenville for cancer treatment. She's been in remission since 2009.
"This kid got chemo and went to the (N.C.) School of Science and Math," said Dr. Charles Daeschner, professor and chief of pediatric hematology/oncology and Stalls' physician when she was being treated for cancer. "I couldn't have pulled it off."
ECU physicians treat approximately 500 patients with sickle-cell disease and another 180 with hemophilia or other blood disorders. Another 70-85 children with cancer are receiving treatment at ECU. The patients come from eastern North Carolina, and some come from farther away if they have left for college in another city.
Students who meet academic requirements are invited to join Phi Eta Sigma during their freshman year. They are members during their sophomore year. Stalls is majoring in psychology and minoring in child development and family relations.