Every doctor has that one patient who left an indelible mark on their career, an ever-enduring influence which has affected their practice forever. Mine was Liesel Angel….
It was a normal morning on a paediatric ward. And following a ward round I set about my jobs for the day. First thing, I was asked to visit a side-room to try putting in an IV line into a patient, as the nurse that morning had failed and the patient wasn’t in the best of moods. So I entered in…
I saw Mrs. Lovia Ofori-Agyemang for the first time, sat in a chair, gorgeous albeit worn-out, with tired yet bright eyes. And on the bed, covered in glitter and with crayons sprawled out in front of her, was Lovia’s daughter – the little Queen herself – Liesel Angel. Cute beyond compare, her eyes broad and wide due to the underlying disease process which I later discovered was Neuroblastoma. This Queen, though adorable, was not in the mood to suffer fools this morning.
So I rolled my sleeves up, put my stethoscope to one side, and sat at Liesel’s feet in her kingdom of glitter. With the soundtrack of children’s TV playing in the background, Liesel slowly let me into her world. She taught me a lot about rapport-building, breaking down barriers, understanding the unfathomable human capacity to endure pain. And she let me put the line in. Eventually. I had only one shot – thank God I was successful. It would’ve been off with my head otherwise.
During all of this, Mrs. Lovia had filled me in on the pertinent details of Liesel’s story. Little Liesel Angel was a victim of a cancer exclusive to children called High Risk Neuroblastoma (Stage IV) – a cancerous tumour arising from particular nerve cells, which run in a chain-like fashion up the back of the child’s abdomen and chest and into the skull. Children affected by Neuroblastoma have one of the lowest survival rates of all childhood cancers.
The first symptoms of Neuroblastoma are often vague, making diagnosis difficult. It often spreads before becoming symptomatically apparent, meaning 50 to 60 percent of all cases present with metastases (spread). An abdominal tumour may cause a swollen belly. A chest tumour can cause breathing problems. A tumour pressing on the spinal cord can cause limb weakness. A tumour in the bones around the eyes can cause distinct bruising and swelling.
After going through a year of treatment, Liesel had been declared free of the disease. But it returned, with a vengeance, and there was nothing else the medical professionals could do at that point. Neuroblastoma stole Liesel away from her kingdom on 3rd February 2012 at the tender age of 3, causing her to remain forever young. Forever unrealised. The Queen was no more. If only I had some of Liesel’s royal resolve the day I heard the news…
Receiving the vision to establish a charity to provide relief for children faced with life-threatening ailments and their families, Liesel’s untimely passing triggered her family into action. Founded by Liesel’s mother Lovia Ofori-Agyemang, and father Francis Appiah-Boakye, the Liesel Angel Trust is a not-for-profit organisation that provides practical hands-on support and relief for critically-ill children and their families: providing advocacy, counselling, domestic help, and personal support while understanding that it’s not just the patient who must endure the stress of battle, but those who love them too. Donations allow the Trust to purchase equipment, fund research and provide better facilities for terminally-ill children that would otherwise be unaffordable under the NHS. The Trust also supplies vital support to hospitals in Africa who help children with cancer.
Pursuits of the Trust include the One Touch Transport Service (which helps transport patients and families to appointments, and drop siblings at school), subsidized luncheon vouchers, Domestic support to keep the upkeep of homes, Bereavement Support, Educational Support to increase awareness in communities, and Wellbeing Massage Therapy. Friends of the Trust are ordinary people committed to supporting through various fundraising activities, from cake sales, to charity sing-alongs, to talent shows, and much more. The Liesel Angel Trust aims to help others alleviate the load Liesel’s own family must have felt when they had fought their own battle.
Liesel’s angel still shines brighter than ever through her legacy of the Liesel Angel Trust. She was a bright little girl, a Queen who was snatched away by a terrible disease which tried its hardest to put out her light forever.
Liesel reigns on. Forever young, forever royal, her influence is still carrying weight and making a different to countless others. And you can do your bit to ensure that her star continues to shine on, and leaves as indelible a mark on more lives as it did mine.
In memory of Liesel Angel Appiah Boakye: Aug 2008 – Feb 2012
You can contact Liesel Angel Trust offices on 020 8538 0185 during the hours of 10-5pm Monday to Friday. Alternatively, you can email enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Liesel Angel Trust, The Vista Business Centre, 50 Salisbury Road, Hounslow, Middlesex TW4 6JQ
Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)