A brave young cancer patient named Tyler DeCourcey is one of the reasons that Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara organized a special Pediatric Cancer Awareness Day at the medical center recently. Events throughout the day included educational booths in the medical center courtyard and special guests, like the San Jose hockey team mascot and a comic book hero. Tyler was there too, because he’s in the medical center for treatments against neuroblastoma, a cancer found in the adrenal glands.
Tyler had his photo taken with Sharkie, and got a promise from Dr. Susan Smarr, Physician-in-Chief of the medical center.
“Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara would like to do more events like this to foster pediatric cancer awareness in the coming years,” said a smiling Dr. Smarr, as she posed with Tyler and his older brother.
Tyler’s family suggested to the medical center’s leaders that a public event held during September Childhood Cancer Awareness Month would make people a lot more aware of what the families and children with cancer experience.
“Our Kaiser Permanente Child Life Specialists do a great job of raising spirits and morale of the children inside our advanced care pediatric unit,” said Chris Boyd, the medical center’s Senior Vice President and Area Manager. “Raising awareness by holding an event outside in our beautiful courtyard is a great idea.”
“We think that pediatric cancer is important since it’s in our lives all year and will be for years,” said Sylvia DeCourcey, Tyler’s mother. “When you are told your child has a 50 percent survival rate, it becomes important to raise awareness.”
As part of a team effort to plan the special event, the medical center’s child life specialist, Wendy Celaya, reached out to organizations that regularly work with the medical center’s Pediatric Oncology patients and their families so that the organizations could highlight the important impacts they are making in the community and the lives of members.
“Among others, we got The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, “Be the Match,” which encourages bone marrow donors. And we also got the amazing Camp Okizu that provides pediatric oncology patients and their families an experience away from the medical environment; which provides peer support, respite, mentoring, and recreational programs,” says Celaya.
It was a bright, sparkling mid-day event, with booths and balloons. Dozens of pediatric cancer patients and their families were able to leave the hospital to attend. Hundreds of Kaiser Permanente members and other medical center visitors strolled among the booths.
Sharks mascot Sharkie and an actor portraying Spiderman were in the photo booth, posing for pictures with patients, their families, and, naturally, Tyler DeCourcey.
“We are beyond thrilled”, said Sylvia DeCourcey. “Families like us have stressful lives full of treatment and not fun times at the hospital. I know that the other families are happy to see the support from Kaiser and know that they are not alone.”