Gergo Kokenyesi first started coming to McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) because he was extremely thirsty all the time. Doctors needed to know the cause of his insatiable thirst, and that required a lot of testing. “He was very afraid of the hospital, and of needles,” recalls his mom, Melinda. She jokes that the whole hospital knew when Gergo was around, because everyone could hear him yelling.
In all seriousness, going to the hospital can be a very scary and intimidating task, especially for children. The team at MCH works hard to make kids feel more comfortable and conquer their fears during their visit.
Gergo had many fears to conquer after receiving his diagnosis–a rare type of cancer called a germinoma brain tumor. It was pushing on his brain and causing his thirst. The diagnosis did not come easy for the Kokenyesi family, who moved to Canada 17 years ago, and don’t have any relatives in the area. They worked closely with Gergo’s care team to make his treatment as comfortable as possible as he began radiation therapy.
Conquering Fears at Hamilton Health Sciences
“To see Gergo go from fearing the hospital to being excited to visit us was really rewarding!”
Nate Seroski, a child life specialist, worked closely with Gergo and his family to help them understand his illness and overcome his fear. Part of Nate’s role is to help kids cope with coming to the hospital. To encourage Gergo to conquer his fears about radiation, Nate created a Pokémon themed radiation prep book for him. In the book, Pikachu explores what radiation is, what it feels like, and why it can be stressful. “Gergo loves Pokémon so the book helped him a lot,” says Melinda. “He was able to learn about what would happen during radiation so there were no surprises.”
“I believe that having these resources is very important for a child’s treatment,” Nate says. “But it is also the environment. The environment at McMaster Children’s hospital goes a long way to support our pediatric patients and the staff here and at the Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC) understand the unique needs of children. It really is a team effort.” Nate and the rest of his care team, which included Child Life colleagues, nurses, a psychologist and many other professionals, worked together to create individualized coping plans for the many steps Gergo completed in hospital.
“We established trust, which is the foundation to Gergo’s success and quality patient care.”
“Communication is so important,” says Gergo’s nurse, Joanne Duckworth. “We share information using a binder so everyone is aware of the coping strategies that work for a patient. That way, the family doesn’t need to repeat their wishes at every appointment.”
Soon enough, Gergo started to look forward to treatment. The clinic at MCH is full of toys, books, events, and activities, which are supported by community donations and volunteers. “To see Gergo go from fearing the hospital to being excited to visit us was really rewarding,” says Nate. “We established trust, which is the foundation to Gergo’s success and quality patient care.”
Hope For The Future
Melinda and the Kokenyesi family are grateful for the entire team at MCH and JHCC. “They are so awesome. Everyone involved with Gergo was amazing. We are so thankful for all the doctors and nurses and child life specialists,” she expresses.
Gergo finished treatment a few months ago, but has to come to MCH for follow up appointments occasionally. He is still afraid of needles, but works hard every time to be brave. “He is much better now, he has matured so much in the last year and a half,” says Melinda. “He’s healthy, tumor free, and happy.”