While most people struggled with the impact of Covid-19 this past year, the Hackenbroch family were trying to cope with 13-year-old Doniel Chaim’s cancer diagnosis. DC, as his family call him, was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just weeks before the pandemic began.
His parents, Tanya and Adam, from Edgware, say charity Camp Simcha has been a lifeline for them. The nationwide charity, which launches its urgent 36-hour fundraising appeal on Sunday 7th February, helps Jewish families with seriously ill children, providing a range of bespoke practical, therapeutic and emotional support services. Initially DC had symptoms which were thought to be an abscess or dental infection, explains Mrs Hackenbroch. Then the GP thought it might be tonsillitis. However, several rounds of antibiotics had no effect.
As the months wore on, DC’s health declined. “He was constantly exhausted, his tonsils looked huge and he would suddenly lose all his colour,” explains Mrs Hackenbroch. After six months of inconclusive tests and treatments, DC had a tonsillectomy in January 2020.
Immediately after surgery, Mr and Mrs Hackenbroch were told his swollen-looking tonsils were caused by a tumour. DC needed to be treated immediately and aggressively, as an in-patient at UCLH.
“We had three other children at home and suddenly we had to figure out how to manage. We called Camp Simcha and they came to the hospital, where they told us all the ways they could help. “We were given a wonderful Family Liaison Officer (FLO), who thinks of everything. She arranged therapeutic art sessions for my younger children; volunteers, hospital transport, a tutor. It was truly a case of ‘whatever you need, whenever you need’. “They even bought a fridge for his hospital room because there was nowhere nearby to get kosher food. “Even when the pandemic began, the support continued, with care packages; food for Pesach in the hospital; Rosh Hashanah arts and crafts boxes and a constant stream of activities for the children.”
For DC, and his older sister, one of the most important aspects of support has been their Camp Simcha ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Big Sister’ volunteers.
DC says: “My volunteer Michaeli is always there to do stuff when I am bored or fed-up. We text all the time and have done fun activities like virtual escape rooms and a barbeque competition in the summer, after I came home.”
Thirteen months on, DC, now 15, is in remission. Mrs Hackenbroch says: “He has gained strength and weight and now it is a case of keeping him closely monitored. But we know Camp Simcha will always be there if we need them.”