Nathan and Oana

Epsom Hospital’s speedy chemo for cancer kids


A mum says she is “amazed” by a new chemotherapy service that has proven to be invaluable for young cancer patients and their families. Nathan Dunne, nine, is usually “back home and in his pyjamas” within 90 minutes of leaving the house to have the cancer treatment – known as Vincristine – at Epsom Hospital, and is in the treatment room itself for just half an hour.

Mum Oana is full of nothing but praise for the service, and says it has significantly reduced the amount of time they spend in hospital for appointments – with Nathan previously receiving his Vincristine dose elsewhere. “It’s so much quicker, and Nathan gets everyone’s full attention – plus, the toy box is there already waiting for him on arrival!” said Oana.

“The staff are amazing, they know what they have to do and are always helpful – and if they don’t know the answers to my questions, they will find out. We’re in and out really quickly, and I look forward to the days when we are in Epsom Hospital now. We know the nurses who are working, and we see often the same faces. They know our children and they remember the routine that works for us – for Nathan, that’s counting ‘1, 2, 3’ when the needle goes in, and back again when it’s taken out. I’m just amazed at how quickly we’re back home after a visit for Vincristine.”

Nathan – who lives with his family in Worcester Park – was diagnosed with leukaemia in June 2020. Aged six at the time, he started to complain of tummy aches, and also started to feel really tired – with Oana recalling how one day she had to carry him home from the park because he couldn’t walk.

On another occasion Nathan had a wobbly tooth that wouldn’t stop bleeding for two days, and he also had a swollen finger that hurt when using his iPad.

Concerned about her son, Oana sought help, and Nathan was eventually referred to St Helier Hospital for blood tests. Later on, the family received devastating news: there was a 90 per cent chance Nathan had leukaemia. “We were devastated – it was the shock of our lives,” said Oana. “I didn’t think for a moment that was what it would be.”

The diagnosis was officially confirmed shortly afterwards, and Nathan spent a night at St Helier Hospital before being transferred to Epsom Hospital’s paediatric oncology unit (POSCU).

He was then moved to the Royal Marsden on his seventh birthday, and spent the next few months in the care of the teams there. Oana says Nathan understood what was happening to some extent – knowing “there was something wrong with his blood” and that he was “very poorly”. Treatment started quickly and every day.

Now, Nathan visits Epsom every four weeks to have treatment and is at the Royal Marsden every 12 weeks – with Oana saying the care he has received and continues to receive at both as “incredible”. Nathan is due to finish treatment in August, and is one of 10 patients to have now received a regular Vincristine infusion at Epsom Hospital.

Dr Beccy Suckling, Chief Medical Officer at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Ensuring our patients receive outstanding care is our biggest priority. Our new Vincristine clinics are something to be really proud of, and a lot of work has gone into getting us to this point. It’s fantastic to hear that young cancer patients like Nathan are being treated so well by our brilliant teams – and as well as thanking our wonderful staff for the care they provide, I’d like to thank Oana and Nathan for their really lovely words about that care.”

Lucy Lloyd-James, Lead Nurse for Epsom’s Paediatric Oncology Shared Care Unit, said: “Epsom Hospital is much closer to home for many of our young patients, and we’ve had such wonderful feedback about our Vincristine clinics and how quickly patients are in and out. We know how scary and overwhelming it can be for our young patients and their families, and this is one way we can make such a difficult experience just a bit easier.”

St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group

[Epsom and Ewell Times say: Thank you Nathan and Oana for your courage sharing your story.]

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