They are the eyes of a father watching his little girl ring a bell. The applause of the doctors. The movement of the rope. The sweetness of his enthusiastic movements. Little jumps. The clapper’s clatter against metal. It is a single word. Happiness. The cure for Karen, a naughty six-year-old girl, thrills the entire staff, from the orderly to the nurse, from the doctors to the physicists. She said that every time she got on the proton therapy machine, she would climb onto her own intergalactic ship. That he was going to and from his particular solar system. A rather atomic journey, which begins in the particle accelerator that is hidden in the building.
Little Karen has only seen the robotic table. And watched the walls turn. They fall asleep while the gantri, a robotic structure eight meters high, moves them up to 360 degrees. Just to look for a microscopic point to be attacked with a beam of protons. The precision is such that it is synchronized with the breath so as not to damage healthy tissue. That was Karen’s space adventure to heal from a brain tumor. Her trip to the moon, as she said herself. Karen came from Ecuador to heal here. His prognosis was dire. With serious injuries as a posteriori consequences of following the traditional method of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. She was saved by her spaceship.
THE CAPTAIN OF THE STARSHIP
There have already been more than 1,000 trips made by children under the age of eight since its inauguration in the middle of the pandemic, on April 2, 2020. Last week that figure was reached. The bell has a wonderful timbre, says Dr. Felipe Calvo, the captain of a unit that cost 40 million. Or director of this area, member of the Royal National Academy of Medicine, with stays in the United Kingdom and the United States. Whoever was head of the oncology unit at Gregorio Maran (Madrid) gets emotional when he talks about his children, about those little ones that he and his team have managed to save. Does it while shows us this kind of cancer-cure star cruise that has treated and saved Karen, who arrived after 9,000 kilometers of crossing and many impossible ones. She shows us the freshly washed and laminated stuffed animals. By the covid. They are part of the treatment, like the smiles of nurses and anesthetists, before putting them to sleep.
The most advanced proton therapy unit in Europe features a synchrotron, a particle accelerator, and a gandri. that allows 360-degree movement … 12 physicists, six engineers, and six doctors are required for its use
It is time to return to the reality of the story; come down from the stars to human meanness. This is the place where the children of the Catalan public health could not come. For inexplicable reasons. When one visits the most advanced proton therapy unit in Europe, one does not understand why. The only reason is that he is in Madrid, at the Clnica Universidad de Navarra. Catalonia preferred to send them to Switzerland – also to France, Germany and Italy – when Swiss patients themselves have sent their little ones to this medical center. Calvo, a calm doctor with always equidistant words, keeps his distance. It only gives data. And on the surgical mask, his dilated pupils express it all.
The technical name of one of the fundamental pieces of proton therapy is synchrotron, only comparable to those used in the best medical centers in the US and Japan: such as the Mayo Clinic, MD Anderson or Hokkaido. But combined with the gandri it is almost insurmountable: only three centers on the globe possess it. They are within 3,600 square meters of the unit. Healthy tissues are not irradiated. It is of extraordinary precision, says Calvo. That precision that has made patients come to this medical and academic center from all over planet Earth. From different latitudes, from countries as close as Portugal, Romania, Bulgaria … From thousands of kilometers away like Ecuador, Mexico or Colombia … From prosperous countries and with magnificent hospitals like Canada, Austria, Arab Emirates, Sweden and from Switzerland itself. That is the distance of absurdity. And meanness.
EL MUNDO has published that many Catalan children like Matilda had to go to Zurich for their treatment of a brain tumor. Despite being closer to Madrid and despite the fact that the Ministry of Health includes it as a therapy to be financed. It was not only harmful for the trip abroad, but also for the waiting time, translation of reports, distance to travel … for the well-being of the little one. In addition to what a trip in the middle of the coronavirus wave means … For your improvement, everything counts. How to make that child feel safe and loved. We offer a comprehensive treatment. The kids come with their stuffed animals to the machine. Doctors and nurses pamper them. They fall asleep peacefully to undergo their session of proton therapy. And they are not few, each child undergoes between 25 and 30.
Another trip, now to the Marvel, of Maxym. Arrived from Ukraine, from Lepolis, it was first dealt with in Barcelona. There they performed two bone marrow transplants. His own Catalan doctors told his parents that they should go to Madrid. It is a symbol of good medical practice that they are sent here, Calvo emphasizes. Every day he was put under anesthesia. It was his mother who accompanied him with phrases to make him laugh before receiving his healing proton beam. She describes the environment like this: Harmony and harmony reign, the feeling of feeling protected and loved. Maxym, with his Spiderman cap, has already rung the so-called bell of the brave.
THE MEANING OF THAT SOUND
The brass ringing of the bell means Job done, mission accomplished. It’s a story that is told on the plaque right behind it. The decorated Admiral Le Moine, founder of the elite corps of the US Army after defeating an extremely aggressive cancer, went to his ship and took the bell to take her to the hospital where he was cured, MD Anderson of Houston. Once there, he made it sound and thus began, in 1996, a tradition in cancer clinics around the world. He arrived at the Madrid bunker like gift of an adult with the soul of a child, cured of breast cancer, called Berta Rodríguez-Curiel. It’s a symbol here, says Calvo. A simple message, with feeling and emotion, for patients and professionals … It does so much good.
When Emi was two years old, I did not imagine that her joy would be crossing the threshold of a Madrid clinic. At that age, his eyeball began to fail, first. Then they announced what she was suffering from, cancer in the eye socket. First, chemotherapy. Later, when it came to photon radiation therapy They explained the consequences: mental retardation, loss of the eye, faults in psychomotor skills … They told their parents about proton therapy. From his Mexico, the United States was closer to him. But they chose to come to Spain. On the second day of entering her information, they called her. They were thrilled by his swift response.
He had to spend Christmas here. Apart from her savings, she received help from the Children Against Cancer Program to be able to come from her native Puebla, to live here, for transportation. Even to put a tree with reindeer and stars. His countryman, the Atltico de Madrid player Hctor Herrera, throws a message to Emi, signed shirt included … His head oncologist played with Captain America and Thor while he showed him what was happening. How the supervillain was being defeated. He’s the greatest superhero we’ve ever met in service, his doctor blurted out before loading it. To ring the bell. Celebrating that it has no sequels. Celebrate life, just plain.
THE BRAVE IN THE DIVING GOGGLES
The first girl to do ding-dong It was Ahinara. He has a space in the hearts of all doctors for this six-year-old girl from Guayaquil. With a very rare sarcoma. I was moved, Calvo released. She crossed the corridors with her flowered jacket, her red bow in her hair, and her diving goggles. Dancing, playing, singing, jumping, believing … he went to meet the machine – as he called proton therapy – as well. For her it was a game … And she was cured, with the conviction of being a doctor in the future. Neurosurgeon buttonhole, Calvo comments. He hugged his father to applause and tears as they rang the bell together.
Despite the laziness of those responsible for Catalan public health – politicians, not doctors, who have nothing to do with it – there are parents who decided to get here with their own means. Thanks to the agreement that exists between the San Juan de Dios private hospital in Barcelona and the Navarra University Clinic, Gerard, aged 13, arrived. His brain and spinal cord were affected. The doctors told us it was the best thing to do … Heart, motor skills, hearing and sight could be severely damaged. they remember their parents before the cameras that document their experience -in this and in the other cases- for the medical and research center. Precision was needed because his illness was very close to vital organs. The boy who used to run incessantly with his brothers arrived in a wheelchair.
Six weeks later, that same Gerard was ringing the bell of the brave, supported by his own legs. Andrs Iniesta sent him his shirt with his signature. Very strong and a very strong hug from Japan, champion, he told him by videoconference. The man who with his goal gave Spain its first World Cup surrenders to the boy who walks again …
After the complaints of what happened, as EL MUNDO has published, it has been achieved that the Generalitat de Catalua no longer refer more patients abroad to receive proton therapy. They will go here or to the unit that Quirnsalud also has in Madrid … And all these medical success stories They have encouraged the Spanish public health system to announce that – despite the reluctance of certain government partners – they will accept the donation from the Amancio Ortega Foundation: 280 million for 10 centers in Spain. Delay. It will take four to five years to be operational.
We will give our full support and collaborate in their training, says Dr. Calvo as he takes us into the guts of the gantri and the synchrotron, which is handled by twelve physicists, six engineers and six doctors – trained at the Mayo Clinic – in addition to all the medical personnel. from the clinic. Just seeing Karen, Emi, Gerard, Ahinara’s spaceship rotate behind behind … is witnessing a feat of science. On that walk through the Millennium Falcon of Spanish pediatric oncology, The vestiges of the 70 little superheroes that have passed through here remain. And the disinfected stuffed animals, ready to be released by those to come.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism