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Resource Guide for Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant
Although the technical transplant process may be similar, children and teenagers having a stem cell transplant have particular needs and different concerns than adults. Vital to all areas of transplant is communication. Children need to receive information that is appropriate to their age and stage of development. Teaching children about their disease and treatment, in words they can understand, helps them cope. Protecting them from information may worsen the situation because they may imagine things to be much worse than they really are. Listen to their questions and answer with reassurance and honesty. Allow your child to express emotions and help him/her to keep a positive attitude. One area of concern in children undergoing stem cell transplant is growth and development. The physical effects of treatment and environmental restrictions after transplant may impact their growth and cognitive or emotional development. A challenge for parents and medical personnel is to promote the normal aspects of the childís life. Many hospitals have programs providing recreational and educational opportunities as well as emotional support. This helps children deal with illness and may promote their well-being.
The siblings of children who undergo a stem cell transplant are also a group to be concerned about. Siblings may experience feelings of jealousy or anger about the extra time and attention given to the ill child. The best way to help these children deal with their feelings is to provide honest, age-appropriate information about the patientís condition and treatment. It may be helpful to have siblings visit the clinic or hospital in order to help them understand what the sick child is experiencing. Many times a childís imagination is filled with incorrect information. Siblings need special attention, support, and many opportunities to talk about their feelings and fears in order to best cope with the impact and concern of having a brother or sister with cancer.
Some wonderful resources are the pediatric social worker or child life specialist at your treatment center. These professionals have special training in ageappropriate communication with children and in family dynamics. SuperSibs! is an organization that can provide additional information (see Resource Listing).
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