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Legacy bead program helps children and their families cope with life-threatening illnesses
Date:9/17/2012

When Kayla Dehnert tells friends and family in Northern California about life as a St. Jude Children's Research Hospital patient, she pulls out a string of beads taller than she is.

"This is a learning-to-take medicine bead," Kayla explains, fingering the bumps of a bluish-lavender bead and working her way down the long strand. "This yellow bead is the change-the-bandage bead, and the tiger bead is the losing-your-hair bead."

Kayla, 8, of Novato, Calif., is one of hundreds of St. Jude patients who have participated in the hospital's Legacy Bead program since its launch in 2009. The program offers patients and their families a tangible way to illustrate their journeys using 55 glass beads as unique as the children who collect them. Patients receive vivid green cylindrical beads for blood transfusions; sapphire round beads for lumbar punctures; tear-drop beads in assorted colors for homesickness; and blue, triangle-shaped beads for clinic visits. Other beads mark triumphs such as the completion of radiation or chemotherapy or challenges ranging from cancer's return to the death of a friend.

"The beads are like a badge of honor. The string helps put into perspective what we've been through. Each bead represents an important part of her journey," said Denny Dehnert, Kayla's father. "They've made some harder days more bearable."

The Legacy Bead program is one of several methods, including journaling and memory boxes, which the St. Jude Child Life Program offers to patients and families to chronicle their journeys and help build legacies. The approach was highlighted in work published recently in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing.

"Some patients use the beads to express how they are feeling about their treatment journeys and a tangible way to share with siblings or friends what happened today or what treatment involves," explained Shawna Grissom, Child Life director and the study's corresponding author. "Other patien
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Contact: Summer Freeman
media@stjude.org
901-595-3061
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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