Little Grace Joel


I’m posting a bit out of order since I have yet to write about our last day at Ndutu, but as you will see it is out of a sense of urgency more than anything else.

Last night we were asked to see little Grace Joel in the ward. Grace is an adorable child who I have gotten to know from previous visits to FAME. She is now 5 years-old and was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia when she was around 3. FAME has continued to care for her as she lives in this area, but her cancer treatment has been delivered predominantly in Dar es Salaam at Muhimbili University which is where the government provides national cancer care. Dar is a 10+ hour bus ride from Arusha and even further from Karatu.

Grace was here to receive an oral chemo treatment and began complaining of an increasing headache yesterday. Payal assessed her and also spoke with the pediatric cancer specialist at Muhimbili this morning to discuss Grace’s treatment. She needs an urgent CT scan and a lumbar puncture, but unfortunately we can’t do those things here at FAME and even if we sent her to Arusha for the CT scan we wouldn’t be able to run cytology here to help differentiate whether her problem is due to worsening leukemia or an opportunistic infection. Either way, she has some intracranial process that needs urgent attention. She has previously been doing very well and has responded to her chemo.

We can’t send her to Dar by bus as she is neutropenic from her chemo and trying to fly her commercially will take at least two days to arrange. We contacted a flying medical service here who is picking her up in several hours and flying her to Dar to be taken by ambulance to Muhimbili. The cost for this trip will be 1.2 million Tanzanian shillings which converts to $1275 USD. FAME doesn’t have this budgeted and we’ve raised some of it here from volunteers, but I am also hoping that a few of my readers may also be able to help out with this. I know I have old photos of Grace somewhere, but none handy to post at the moment.

Any donations can be made directly through the FAME website at and just make a note or send an email to them that it for Grace Joel. If you’d like to email me you can as well and I will let them know of your generosity – Life is so difficult here, but to have an illness like this would be difficult anywhere.

Thank you.

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