Written by Tamaryn Wilde (Chairperson of PsySSA Student Division Community Development Sub Com)
Surgeons for Little Lives (SFLL) is a registered not-for-profit organization of passionate people who are committed to improving the lives of the little patients they treat. The PsySSA (SD) Community Development Chair and Vice Chair, Tamaryn and Bridget, had the privilege of chatting to Dr. Vered Lack (Pediatric Surgery Registrar and member of SFLL), about her latest clinical trial called the THINK study, which is being conducted at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH). THINK stands for Traumatic Head Injury: Neurocognitive and behavioral assessment and management in Kids. This fascinating study aims to evaluate the various cognitive and psycho-social impacts mild head injuries (MHI) have on young school going children. The project started in 2013 and is ongoing with results currently being analyzed and more assessments set to be carried out this year.
The THINK study involves psychologically assessing the participants in its group using psychometric tests specifically chosen to reflect cognitive functioning deficits so that the impact of the MHI can be investigated. Should the study produce results that advocate for early intervention in children with MHI, a multidisciplinary rehabilitation program will be created and piloted at CHBAH. Post rehabilitation testing would then be ongoing to establish the efficacy of the intervention program. Should the intervention program prove successful, it could be implemented at other government institutions to ensure good rehabilitation protocol for MHI cases.
The benefit of conducting this research in our South African context is that impoverished communities often expose children to high risk environments both inside and outside the home. The exposure to dangerous building structures, inadequate pedestrian walkways and inadequate roads cause a multitude of injuries amongst children as they move through their neighborhoods. Many of the children assessed in the THINK study have, for example, suffered head injuries from passing motor vehicles whilst walking to and from school.
Often the symptoms of MHI’s, which are cumulative over time, go unnoticed until they manifest later as impairment in school and social functioning. Another potential outcome of the THINK study would be the creation of an assessment tool applicable to our socio-cultural context that would accurately describe and detect MHI symptomology. This would assist early diagnosis and inform effective treatment, ultimately rehabilitating children to cope with the challenges of the lives they lead especially those related to the classroom environment. Successful intervention will also reduce the long-term deficits in psycho-social functioning often linked with untreated or misdiagnosed MHI patients.
We asked Dr. Lack what she loved most about being a member of SFLL. She said that having the privilege of facilitating healing in young children and unlocking their potential through mental and physical health can help combat the various unfortunate circumstances children are often born into. Dr. Lack also loves working with the amazing network of caregivers involved at the institutions she rotates at (CHBAH and Charolotte Maxeke Academic Hospital) and is inspired by the passion and commitment of others in the SFLL organization. She explained how the passion at SFLL has translated into the successful completion of their latest project at CHBAH: sleepover rooms for Moms whose children are admitted to the pediatric unit. This allows the moms to be close to their children when they need them the most.
Another ongoing SFLL project involves giving Arrival and Discharge Packs to children admitted to hospital. The packs contain useful items that the children love playing with and snacking on which go a long way toward helping alleviate the stress associated with hospital stays. Many of the children SFLL treat come from impoverished backgrounds, so these packs are a real treat for them. If you would like to donate to these packs SFLL asks if you could please note the following:
Our age groups 0-12 months; 1-2 Years; 3-5 Years; 6-8 Years and 9-12 Years
Arrival Packs: Cream, facecloth, soap bar (All Ages), toothpaste and toothbrush (Ages 1-12) and Lip Ice (Ages 3-12)
Discharge Packs Clothing (All Ages), Blanket/Towel (0-12 Months), Disposable Nappies, Baby Booties/Beanies, Soft toys (0-12 Months, Ages 1-2), Socks (Ages 3-5), Toy (Ages 3-12), Coloring Books/crayons (Ages 3-8 Years), Books/Stationary (Ages 7-12), Water bottle (Ages 3-9),Lip Ice (Ages 9-12) and Snacks e.g. chips and cookies (Ages 3-12).
The first PsySSA SD Community Development project for the year will be a Toy Drive collecting toys for the children of the THINK study at CHBAH. If you have any second-hand toys that you would like to donate which are appropriate and safe for toddlers, kindly contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also be collecting items for the Arrival and Discharge Packs should you wish to donate toward that initiative. If you would like to donate financially to SFLL, please visit their website www.surgeonsforlittlelives.org.