Tangible hope – new top-notch hospital for cancer kids

It was one Russian child's dying wish to a president - a new hospital for cancer-suffering children. As the doors of the center are now about to officially open, the memory of Dima, who sadly did not survive his illness, will live on.

­ It was supposed to be a happy ending. Six years ago, Dima Rogachev was successfully recovering from leukemia. He was already strong enough to give then-President Vladimir Putin a tour around his overcrowded cancer ward and insightful enough to ask when the country would build a new, more spacious hospital.

Out of 5,000 Russian kids who are diagnosed with cancer every year, fewer than half manage to get specialized medical help. Dima, who was born in the small town of Kaluga in central Russia, was sent to Moscow for treatment. He is one of the very few.

Elena has not left the ward of her sick daughter for six months for fear of contracting an infection. Her little girl was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia last year, but so far has not responded well to treatment. Little Varya has already suffered a number of infections, despite being dosed up with antibiotics.

And her primary diagnosis is still unclear.

Doctors have voiced many theories of what’s wrong with her, but nobody can come up with a diagnosis. My only hope is going to Moscow. They have better laboratories there. Their doctors are more experienced…What baffles doctors here in Kaluga may turn out to be a routine diagnosis for Moscow doctors,” says Elena Vlasova, mother of the sick child.  

Elena hopes his daughter will be sent to Moscow, to a new top-notch child cancer hospital that will be able to accommodate up to 500 children at a time. The facility has its own air-purification system, which will maintain hygiene without committing parents to months-on-end hospital confinement and without subjecting children to loads of antiviral drugs.

It looks like something from the future, but it is ready to accept patients right now.

We won’t be able to cure everybody,” explains Alexey Maschan, deputy head of the Federal Center for Children’s Hematology, Oncology and Immunology.

About 30 per cent of children who are diagnosed with cancer nowadays can’t be cured because we don’t yet fully understand the cancer mechanisms or the drugs have not yet been invented. Yet we’ll still be able to help thousands of children who, until recently, had only two options – search for a treatment abroad or die at home.”

Two years after asking the president for the new center, Dima died of a lung hemorrhage. But his legacy will be a hospital named after him.

It is the only hospital of its kind in Russia and possibly all of Europe, because every little thing here is designed with childhood cancer in mind. It has the best equipment in the world for treating tumors, and employs some of the brightest doctors and scientists.

For all its uniqueness, most parents would give everything for their kids never to go near this hospital. Others would do everything in their power for their children to be here.