Ever since the first KACCH playroom opened in the Amiri Hospital in 1989, over half a million children and their families in Kuwait have enjoyed the benefits of psychosocial support during their hospital experiences.
The vision of providing play activities and psychosocial care for children and their families in hospitals began under the leadership and commitment of Dr Hilal and Mrs Margaret Al -Sayer. When their youngest son was admitted to hospital with an acute asthmatic attack Margaret became keenly aware of the sterile hospital environment and lack of play areas or toys for children admitted to the paediatric ward. With permission from the Head of paediat-rics and Director of the hospital she approached other mothers and friends and persuaded them to volunteer with her to decorate a playroom and create a child friendly space on the paediatric ward so children could play and experience a feeling of normalcy in a unfamiliar environment. This initiative laid the foundation for the development of Kuwait Association for the Care of Children in Hospital (KACCH).
Although the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait temporarily halted the hospital play programs it was not for long, and KACCH was able to rebuild its programmes again in 1994 with the support of international leaders in hospital-based play. Together they constructed a one year post-graduate Diploma in Child Life which was accepted by Kuwait University. The the first cohort of students graduated from the university with a Child Life Certiicate in 1996.
Registered as a non-profit, Charitable Organisation by the Ministry of Social Affairs in 2003
KACCH child life and play programmes have since been accepted as an integral component of the paediatric services providing psychosocial and emotional support for hospitalized children and their families in almost all government hospitals across Kuwait. The scientific evidence demonstrates that the provision of appropriate therapeutic play and child life opportunities in hospital can facilitate the healing process and development of coping mechanisms in children.
Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice (BACCH)
Bayt Abdullah Children’s Hospice was inspired by a young boy named Abdullah who returned to Kuwait from London after the treatment for his cancer failed. In spite of lengthy hospital stays and often painful procedures there was no further treatment that would offer hope for a cure. His doctor told his mother “there is nothing more we can do for Abdullah.” Abdullah’s mother promised her son that he would never again have to stay in a hospital and asked for the support of KACCH to help her to look after Abdullah at home. Dr Hilal put together a team of experts who managed his pain and other symptoms at home allowing Abdullah to live as normal a life as possible for as long as possible. Six months later, in April 1990, Abdullah passed away peacefully in his mother’s arms at home, just weeks before his 5th birthday, surrounded by his family.
As Kuwait recovered from the Iraqi invasion and the work of KACCH extended to other hospitals it became apparent to our Child Life Specialists that a small group of children with certain conditions that were similar to Abdullah’s were suffering a poorer quality of life towards the end of their lives. The powerful experience of witnessing Abdullah’s courage and love of life once his pain and symptoms were managed stayed with Dr Hilal and Margaret and urged them to once again gather together the KACCH volunteers, Board Members, Executive Committee and the wider community in Kuwait, to embrace and champion the introduction of paediatric palliative care to Kuwait; yet another pioneering paediatric service that was developed under the umbrella of KACCH. To ensure these services would be available to all children in Kuwait diagnosed with a life limiting or life threatening condition KACCH began the work of raising awareness and funds to build a Children’s Hospice in Kuwait.
Designed by architectural student Aliaa Al-Ghunaim and named after Abdullah, Bayt Abdullah was officially opened under the auspices of the Amir of Kuwait in January 2012, giving those children living in Kuwait the specialized care they need, ensuring the emphasis is placed on quality of life and the best day to day care possible, and providing them and their families with expert clinical, psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual support throughout their challenging journey. Bayt Abdullah is the first and still the only Children’s Hospice in the Middle East.
KACCH currently operates child life programmes in seven hospitals across Kuwait: The Amiri, Farwaniya, Jahra, Jaber Al Ahmed, Ibn Sina, Al Razi, and NBK Children’s Hospital. They provide child life and therapeutic play programs for children and their families on hos-pital wards, in the playrooms and bedside, in out-patient and imaging centres, in day-case surgical wards and on-call for doctors and nurses, to support children undergoing difficult procedures anywhere in the hospial. They communicate with children using play to help them understand why they are in hospital, what their treatment does for them, and how coping strategies help them to manage their fears; “no fears, no tears”
KACCH Child Life Programmes are led by qualified Child Life Specialists (CLS) and Play Leaders who work in partnership with doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to meet the unique emotional, developmental and social needs of each child and family under going medical procedures in hospital, always putting the needs of the child and family first.
BACCH provides multi-professional, specialist, paediatric palliative medicical and psycho-social care and support to children with life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses, who are resident in Kuwait, and their families. Its goal is to improve the quality of life for children from diagnosis onwards by offering these services tailored to the individual family’s needs, in the location of their choice, whether at home, in Bayt Abdullah or through our outreach programme in their local hospital.
The interdisciplinary paediatric palliative care team delivers a holistic model of care with a child centered approach involving medical, nursing, physiotherapy, pharmacy, dietetics and psychosocial teams within the hospice, child’s home and hospital. BACCH offers specialist symptom management, clinically supported ‘respite’ care, home care, rehabilitation services, hydrotherapy, play activities and learning support, as well as psychosocial and practical support for the whole family.
All BACCH services are free for all our children.
KACCH & BACCH today
As many of the services provided by our professional staff in KACCH and BACCH are mirrored in the services offered in the hospital and Hospice, our Board of Directors made the decision early in 2020 after extensive research to amalgamate the two arms of KACCH ensur-ing the most effective and equitable use of KACCH and BACCH resources. This has increased the CLS support in Bayt Abdullah and enhanced the experiences and skills of all KACCH staff . Chldren also benefit from seeing the familiar faces of CLS and Play Leaders who cared for them in the hospitals. Events and celebrations, conferences and teaching sessions, facilities and professional skills are now shared and have resulted in many creative and valuable experiences for everyone in KACCH & BACCH, including our children and their families.