My name is Katerina Pancheko. I was born in 1980 in Slutsk, an attractive small town 100 km south of Minsk and now I live in Minsk with my little daughter, Daria.
I graduated from medical college with a midwifery qualification in 1999 and from then until 2007 worked for the ambulance and emergency medical aid service. A year later, I graduated from a part-time degree course at the Belarusian Tanka Pedagogical Institute as a teacher of psychology.
I have been working at the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (BCH) since 2007.
Thanks to shadowing projects in the UK (Richard House Children’s Hospice) and Poland (Warsaw Children’s Hospice) and seminars and courses in Belarus, Poland, Latvia and Russia, I have been able to expand my knowledge and skills in children’s palliative care and to gain a deeper understanding.
Last year, I took a post-graduate course in physiotherapy and since then have been working as a Specialist Nurse at BCH.
Most of our patients at BCH are incurable. Unfortunately, for doctors and nurses outside the hospice our children are generally lower priorities or no priority at all because they think in terms of making patients well again. The parents of these special children find themselves imprisoned within the four walls of their apartment and most of their children do not move beyond the bounds of their own room. Often, family members are afraid to approach the sick child because they do not know how to turn him or her over and are scared of damaging them. The whole family is in a state of chronic stress and they have a poor quality of life.
I am able to help families like these by providing assistance to children on the BCH respite programme along the lines of what you would call occupational therapy. I visit children in their homes as part of the home care team and help to ensure the child maintains as much mobility and flexibility as possible to avoid contractures. I also teach the parents how to carry out these simple movements so they can help their child between my visits. My duties also include carrying out respiratory care, massaging, teaching parents how to correctly sit or lay down their child and making recommendations on equipment that would make life easier.
Over time, a relationship of trust builds up between me, the child and the family. The mother may then open up and talk more about her problems and ask about things that are worrying her and to which she has not been able to find helpful advice and information. This gives me another opportunity to help.
I am often asked why I work in a children’s hospice. Well, there isn’t one simple answer, except to say that I really like my work. I feel happier when I know that I am doing something useful and helping others to be happier too!