Enhancing Care: Upgrading the Pediatric Oncology Ward at Regina Margherita Children’s Hospital

The Pediatric Oncology Ward at the Regina Margherita Children’s Hospital in Turin, Italy, has been providing care to children with serious illnesses for over 50 years. The ward includes a Stem-Cell Transplant Unit that has been saving young lives since 1989. Bone-marrow transplants, also known as stem-cell transplants, are commonly used to treat certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, myeloma and lymphoma. Each year, over 150 pediatric patients are referred to the oncology department and approximately 30 stem-cell transplants are performed.

The journey these children embark on while undergoing transplants is both intense and daunting. During this vulnerable time, the child must stay in isolation for 30 to 40 days to protect them from infection. Only one adult is allowed to stay with them, and other people can only visit through a windowed gallery using an audio communication system. This is also how the children receive their school lessons during their isolation.

Until recently, the communication system was outdated, frequently out of service and offered very little privacy, which made receiving visitors and educational instruction difficult. In addition, the viewing gallery tended to be very uncomfortable as the sun directly hit the windows, which could not be opened, leading to the space overheating. Recognizing the need for improvement, the District 108-IA3 Lions decided to upgrade the visitor space, in hopes of improving the experience for the brave children undergoing stem-cell transplants and their families.

Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) awarded the district a Childhood Cancer Grant of US$21,659 and a District and Club Community Impact Grant (DCG) of US$3,000 to bring this project to fruition. Over 15 clubs in the district participated in collecting funds, totaling US$13,000, for this project and the district has made a commitment to continuing support for the Pediatric Oncology Ward.

The project, which aimed to improve the comfort of the space, included installing five updated intercom systems for each of the five patient-visitor viewing spaces to enhance clear communication and privacy. Additionally, a solar protective film was applied to the windows to eliminate overheating, and a refrigerator was purchased for storing visitors’ refreshments.

One parent described the difference this space made for her daughter saying, "My daughter confided she was sad about not being able to attend school lessons during her treatment. The doctors reassured her by saying she could follow the lessons through a separate isolation gallery with a glass barrier and audio system. Furthermore, she would be able to receive visits from her brother, grandparents and close friends. She immediately felt better."

Approximately 180 people annually will benefit from these upgrades including patients, families, friends and educators. These outcomes reflect the power of grant-funded service projects for entire communities. As Lions and Leos continue to act with compassion, LCIF will advance their efforts through meaningful grant opportunities and expand the number of beneficiaries Lions are able to serve around the world.

Visit lionsclubs.org/GrantsToolkit to explore different grant types and learn which one will be most effective for your club’s next project.