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Last Updated: Friday, 15 June 2007, 23:21 GMT 00:21 UK
Cancer treatment via a backpack
By Jane Elliott
BBC News, Health reporter

Nick Gall-Tomassen
Nick's back pack gives him more freedom during treatment
Nick Gall-Tomassen, aged 31, has bone cancer and needs to spend weeks in hospital having chemotherapy.

But a specially designed backpack now means Nick can spend his recuperation time away from the ward.

His backpack holds rehydration fluids, which feed straight into his body through a vein in his arm.

Nick says this has given him a new lease of freedom.

In the circumstances, it is the nearest that I can get to a normal life
Nick Gall-Tomassen

"I spend a week at the Rosenheim Wing, part of University College Hospital, London, and then I can go for four or five days to the nearby Grafton Hotel, for rest and recuperation.

"It is much nicer being able to spend time in the hotel rather than being in the hospital all the time.

"I need hydration all the time because the chemicals they are putting into me for my chemotherapy are so toxic and could damage my kidneys.

"So I wear my backpack during the day and when I sleep I put it on the bedside next to me.

Normality

"In the circumstances, it is the nearest that I can get to a normal life.

"It has enabled me to have a lot of freedom and when I have the energy I have been able to go to the shops and buy myself a newspaper."

The hotel does not have special medical facilities, but the rooms are linked to nursing staff by an alarm.

Nick Gall-Tomassen
Nick had just qualified as a personal trainer when he was diagnosed

After having bloods taken and the fluids refilled at the hospital, Nick is then free to do what he likes.

"I would normally walk around the shops or meet friends for lunch or dinner. Most commonly I spend time with my family or my girlfriend and her family."

Nick, who began his treatment just after Christmas, will have six cycles of chemotherapy over about nine months.

He became ill last October shortly after qualifying as a personal trainer and nutritionist.

"It was ironic," he said. "I had never been so fit."

Bone cancer

Nick discovered a lump on his right ankle, which was hot to the touch and swollen.

The leg became painful to walk on. A fracture was suspected and later confirmed, but the X-ray showed that there was a tumour.

Doctors initially suspected bone cancer, but a barrage of tests at St. George's, Tooting, proved inconclusive, so Nick was sent to the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, for further tests.

It has definitely proved cost effective
Susanna Daniels

"They were phenomenal and did a biopsy and in early December which confirmed that it was bone cancer," Nick said.

In February he had surgery to remove the tumour, an osteosarcoma.

Cancer Tsar Mike Richards said the special backpacks are a fantastic medical invention.

"It means patients are no longer required to be tied to the ward by their drip stand and can go out and enjoy a relatively normal life.

"The backpacks are also an important breakthrough for the NHS, freeing up valuable hospital beds."

UCLH - the first hospital in the country to introduce the backpacks - is now looking at how this approach could benefit other chemotherapy patients.

Susanna Daniels, lead pharmacist of cancer services at UCLH, said it was possible to give chemo through backpacks.

But she said that for patients like Nick, who only need a four-hour treatment, this was unsuitable.

She said the increase in ambulatory care was proving beneficial, both to patients and the NHS.

Susanna said the patients loved their increased freedom, but stressed they always kept a bed available on the ward in case one of the patients needed to be brought in.

"And it has definitely proved cost effective because we do not need to pay for night care staff for these patients.

"It is much cheaper to have patients stay in a four-star hotel in central London so it is saving the NHS money."




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