Beads of Courage project helps Sick Kids

Patients Euan Burns, ten, and Finlay Nicholson, also ten, check out the new bead bags at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Picture: contributed
Patients Euan Burns, ten, and Finlay Nicholson, also ten, check out the new bead bags at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. Picture: contributed
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Wellwishers have stitched hundreds of colourful “bead bags” for a project which helps young cancer patients make sense of their gruelling treatment.

The Sick Kids hospital was the first place in the Scotland to introduce the Beads of Courage scheme in 2013, where youngsters use colourful beads to create a record of all the treatments and procedures they have 
endured in hospital.

Each child receives a string of beads with their name on, and a glass or plastic bead will then be added for each procedure the child goes through, such as blood tests, lumbar punctures, chemotherapy and overnight stays.

Volunteers stepped in recently to sew hundreds of eye-catching bags to keep the beads safe, as supplies for the popular project were rapidly dwindling.

Jenny Tomes, a clinical psychologist for NHS Lothian, said: “The children like to thread all their beads on to strings to represent all the experiences they have been through in hospital.

“To give the children somewhere to keep their precious beads safely, they are given a bead bag, a little cloth draw-string bag.

“We were getting low on supplies and so we put the word out to see if anyone could help.”

She contacted the hospital’s voluntary services manager, Denise Claxton, who set about recruiting some sewing volunteers.

Denise said: “We couldn’t believe it when parcels kept arriving. In the space of a few weeks around 150 bead bags in all different colours and patterns had been sewn and not just by our loyal NHS Lothian volunteers – but also by their friends and families, who were keen to help.

“We’re really grateful to all those kind people who spent time making the bags so lovingly for the children on Ward 2.”

Euan Burns, ten, has around 300 beads to his name, revealing the rollercoaster he has endured since he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2013. Last year doctors found a tumour behind his eye.

His mother, Kathleen Davidson, said: “They really help Euan to keep track of his 
treatments. He is now really proud of how he has all these beads which stand for times when he has been really brave.”

Ms Davidson, 41, said: “In the beginning of his treatment I was the one collecting a lot of the beads because he was really quite ill. But he took them into school, where they had a special assembly and it helped his friends to understand.

“When he was first diagnosed he couldn’t walk properly so one of his most special beads is the one he got for walking without his crutches or his Zimmer frame. He is doing really well now. He is expected to finish his treatment next May so hopefully he will be able to get the purple heart bead – which means treatment is finished.”

The Beads of Courage programme is run and funded by the charity Be Child Cancer Aware.