Beads of Courage: Chronicling a Journey

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By Rakhee Sharma, Staff Writer/Videographer

For patients in the Children's Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, their journeys are being chronicled by the Beads of Courage program.

Beads of Courage was created to help children keep an active journal of their treatments, without having to write anything down. By collecting a string of beads, each representing a different treatment or procedure, children have a way to honor milestones along their path. The string is a visual marker that helps kids, as well as families, cope with what they're going through and make it more understandable to others.

The program was created at Phoenix Children's Hospital by a nurse, Jean Baruch, who saw the benefits of resilience-based intervention for children receiving care for cancer or blood conditions. Since its inception here in August 2008, Beads of Courage has grown steadily in popularity.

New patients are invited to become a Beads of Courage member and given a bead color guide with a detachable membership card. A string and colorful beads that spell the patient's name is the start of the chronicle. Beads are given throughout treatment to add to the string. Some children have strings several feet long, and it's not uncommon to see a string 15 feet long tied to an IV pole in the hallway.

Sarah Odom, clinical nurse in G9 West, often is approached by children clamoring for their beads. "A lot of times even before the procedure, the kids need to know what bead they'll get once it is over," Odom says.

The program has helped strengthen the bond between care provider and patient. "We start talking to them about beads, leading to conversations about what the next part of treatment will be. It opens a dialogue," Odom remarks. "It gives us something to talk about besides chemo, something to look at rather than the actual treatment. And kids need that. It's how they cope."

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