Samuel* is 14 years old. Last year, after attending only the first week of Secondary school, he was diagnosed to be suffering from Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumour (PNST), which is a tumour that develops in the protective lining that covers nerves. The first symptom of PNST is often a lump or mass that increases in size, sometimes causing pain or a tingling sensation. These tumours can occur anywhere in the body, but most often in the deep tissue of the arms, legs and trunk. He was then referred to HCA and is now our Star PALS patient.
Samuel had a large tumour growing on the right side of his body near his waist and he had undergone surgery to remove the tumour, followed by radiation therapy. Large amounts of skin from both his thighs were used for grafting after his surgery. In the months that followed, together with medication, the tumour had shrunk sizeably.
The outlook seemed promising for Samuel, who is shy, intelligent and loves playing with his younger brother. However, a week ago, Samuel complained of pain where the tumour had been removed.
We visited Samuel and he was his usual cheerful self, smiling most of the time. After a physical examination, our nurse reminded Samuel that he was to visit his specialist doctor at the hospital the next day for a blood test. She then asked Samuel if he would like to try on a magic glove that could possibly reduce the pain of the needle during the blood test. He was curious and asked what it was. Our nurse explained that she had just attended a workshop in the US on Paediatric Clinical Hypnosis and had learnt a few techniques on how to better control the mind. Samuel was game to try.
Our nurse asked which hand the hospital nurses would usually draw blood from and Samuel said the right. She used a capped ballpoint pen and prodded a few times on the back of both his hands. She asked him to remember the pressure and called that a ‘ten’. She then pulled out from her pocket and unfolded an imaginary ‘magic’ glove and told Samuel that she was going to put the glove on his right hand. She gently massaged all his fingers and explained that she was putting on the magic glove for Samuel, finger by finger. She then continued to massage the back of his right hand and upwards towards the elbow, all the time explaining her actions. She mentioned that this was a long glove and asked him what colour he would like to glove to be. Samuel said purple and she asked him to think of a long purple glove that she was trying to put on for him. She then said she would put on more layers of the magic glove, so that it would protect his hand. Samuel seemed relaxed and had been listening intently to our nurse’s gentle explanation. After a few minutes, our nurse said that the thick purple glove was in place and used to pen to prod his left hand, reminding him that that was a ‘ten’. She went on to prod the right hand and asked Samuel what scale that would be. He hesitated for a few seconds and said, ‘five’. Our nurse explained that it was a good result and that Samuel could do this on his own, the next day, just before the blood test.
She then said it was time to remove the glove. Slowly, she massaged his hand in the opposite direction, saying that she was now removing the layers of the thick purple glove. After a while, she used the pen to prod both his hands, reminding him that the left was a ten. What was it on the right? Samuel said eight and our nurse coolly explained that she had not removed all the layers. After a bit more of ‘removing’ the rest of the layers, a final prod on his right hand got Samuel giggling and he said it was now a ten. Samuel was excited and found it fun, that something as simple as this really worked for him. He agreed to try it the next day at the hospital. Our nurse too was excited that what she had learnt in the US workshop seemed to have a positive effect on Samuel.
I had initially been sceptical about hypnosis. I feel that because our nurse did not use the word hypnosis and instead spoke about how to better control the mind, I became more open and thoroughly enjoyed the session of the magic purple glove. I am hopeful that Samuel will benefit from the exercise and excited that our nurse can use this technique to help our other Star PALS patients.
As for Samuel, besides the old tumour which had resurfaced, he now has another growth on his left forearm and his prognosis is three months to a year. His family bonds remain strong and we pray that Samuel lives happily and comfortably for the remaining days of his live. ‘Jia You’ Samuel – we love you!
*not his real name
Love all the children around us, everyone!