Coping With Isolation
Coping with isolation during brachytherapy can be challenging for some children and parents.
With good preparation and planning, you and your child can make this a positive shared experience.
Some children are unaffected by isolation, playing happily within the limitations of the isolation room. Others experience significant physical and emotional discomfort.
Some sleep through the isolation period, while others have high energy levels.
Radiation cannot be felt, and any physical pain will be due to the surgery involved. Sometimes the treated eye can appear red. This is normal.
If your child has limited or no vision in the untreated eye, treatment may be distressing if vision in the treated eye is impeded. See below for ways to help your child cope with this situation.
Staying With Your Child
Your child will be nursed in a lead-lined isolation room, labelled as a Controlled Area. No children or pregnant women may enter it. However, a parent or carer will be able to stay at all times.
Adult visitors will be permitted. Even if your child does not need visitors, you will likely appreciate company after a day cooped up together in a small room.
Although the amount of radiation delivered to the tumour is high, energy emitted from the plaque is very low. The radiation dose received by a visitor is about equal to exposure during air travel.
Although the radiation emitted is low, you will be exposed to it for several days. You are therefore advised to observe the following precautions:
- Do not stay with your child if you are pregnant.
- If you had retinoblastoma or have a constitutional RB1 mutation, we strongly advise you do not visit or stay with your child so you are not exposed to radiation. This may be distressing, but it is the safest option for you, and is only for a few days.
- Do not allow children under 16 to visit.
- Share care as much as possible so any contact with radiation is reduced for each person.
- The dose of radiation received is reduced as distance from the source increases. Sit away from your child whenever possible, e.g. when they are asleep. You will naturally want to cuddle and comfort your child, but try to avoid cuddling close to the face.
Play and Distraction
Being isolated for a few days can be very boring. Think carefully about toys and activities that will help pass the time. Find out if your hospital has a child life specialist who can help you plan suitable activities and provide some toys and resources for your child.
If your child has limited vision in the other eye, bare in mind she may not be able to see well. Think about activities that use other senses, such as:
- Tactile matching games
- construction toys like lego
- musical toys
- audio stories or music
- scented colouring pens
- moulding crafts like play dough
Prepare a sensory box filled with items that can be identified by smell, touch, taste and hearing. You can then play guessing games with your child.