Continued">Continued">Continued">History – Children Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357


The Journey of Hope: The Inspiring Story Behind 57357

Hospital 57357 was not built with a magic wand. Still, with vision, planning, effort, and determination, ‘dedicated people’ who did not stop at the painful health reality that children with cancer were living in the 80s but decided to play a role in development and change and provide world-class treatment opportunities for our children with complete fairness.

In the early 1980s, Alarm bells were triggered by the pain and suffering of children with cancer in the mid-80s. At that time, the health budget was limited. Cancer was not a priority of the state’s interest, as it adopted a national project to treat drought, save newborns, and reduce their death rates. The cost of all the medicines that enter Egypt did not exceed one million dollars annually for cancer, heart, and diabetes diseases together. Amid these circumstances, and in the absence of medicines and capabilities, Egypt’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) could not accommodate the increase in the number of patients, leading to a deterioration in the recovery rates and an increase in the death rate among sick children.

Children with tumors were living a painful reality in the children’s department at the National Cancer Institute (NCI); due to the lack of care and capabilities and the high death rates, the children’s department at Egypt’s NCI had only 8 beds, and the distance between each bed and another bed was 30 cm. Each bed accommodates two children with their mothers.

The windows and balconies were ‘broken’ and did not protect the children from the summer flies or the winter cold, and the doctor was given one syringe to inject the sick children who mainly suffer from immune deficiency; he had to inject the child and then wash the syringe with saline solution to inject the other child.

The department did not have enough lighting, and the darkness hindered the doctor’s work at night. Hence, Dr. Sherif Abouelnaga, a pediatric oncology physician at Egypt’s National Cancer Institute (NCI),  resorted to a construction company owner to volunteer to do the electricity for the department and repair the windows in an attempt to solve some of the problems that the children and their mothers suffer from.

Dr. Abouelnaga experienced a heart-wrenching day when he saw 13 out of 16 children in his ward succumb to cancer. This was a time when North America was witnessing a cancer survival rate of around 65-70%, and the medical fraternity was starting to believe that pediatric cancer could be defeated.

After enduring years of war and poverty in Egypt, the economy was on the rise. With communicable diseases being controlled due to increased access to medicine and medical supplies, the focus of the medical community shifted towards life-threatening diseases like cancer. The late 70s saw the establishment of the pediatric oncology specialty at the NCI.

The pediatric oncology physicians at the NCI, empowered by Dr. Abouelnaga, were deeply affected by the plight of their young cancer patients. They made a solemn promise to transform the dire conditions of their single pediatric oncology ward. Despite lacking resources, modern methods, equipment, and a safe environment, they were determined to bring about change and match the Western results for Egypt’s children with cancer.

Initially, the idea was to seek assistance from religious leaders and businessmen. This led him to the highly respected and beloved Sheikh el Sharawy. Coincidentally, Sheikh el Sharawywas at Abou Shakra Restaurant with Mr. Abdullah Sallam, the founder of Olympic Electric, Mr. Ahmed Abou Shakra, the proprietor of Abou Shakra Restaurant, and Mr. Ahmed Abdullah Tayma, a former Minister of Religious Affairs and a member of the original 1952 Revolutionary Council. During this time, Dr. Abouelnaga had the opportunity to meet them and persuaded them to contribute 50 LE each month to aid children battling cancer. Each individual committed to a monthly donation of 50 LE to help establish a robust pediatric oncology care program at the NCI. Even though all members of the group have since passed away, their families have continued to honor this commitment, recognizing the importance of the cause.

As physicians and families began to see the hope of a cure, they began to press for improved conditions. The physicians continued to work towards achieving a high standard of care and facilities for their patients. Media personalities Amal Fahmy and Tarek Allam joined in the cause. They were avid spokespersons for the program to explain the need to the public and help them realize cancer-related issues. 

On the day of Dr. Abouelnaga’s doctoral examination, Mr. Hossam Kabbany arrived at the NCI with a donation of 250,000 LE. Then Mr. Ahmed Bahgat and Mr. Safwan Joined him, each contributing an additional 250,000 LE. Instead of accepting 750,000 LE donation directly, Dr. Abouelnaga proposed to Dr. Reda Hamza, the dean of the institute at that time, a new idea to direct these funds to implement a vast advertising campaign to raise donations for the institute as the first initiative of its kind in the field of charitable work in Egypt. At that time, all the donations that reached the institute annually did not exceed one million pounds. They collaborated with Mr. Tarek Nour to execute this campaign; He is considered the father of communications in Egypt. This was a new and bold idea, and to make the adventure studied and the plan complete on the correct scientific basis, a specialized idea was used to implement the advertising campaign, represented in Tarek Nour, the pioneer of advertising art in Egypt, who donated his effort and idea, and the huge advertising campaign was carried out in Ramadan 1995. His generosity didn’t stop there; he has continued to help and support us until now. His contributions have been invaluable in our journey to improve the lives of our patients. It was a very successful campaign that touched the hearts of Egyptians and drew their attention for the first time to the importance of supporting children with cancer. It contributed to the societal movement towards charitable work, so much so that the queues of donors to the institute were closing Qasr El Aini Street and reaching the Corniche. 

The result of the campaign was that donations reached 27.5 million pounds during Ramadan only, and the turnout continued to reach donations to 72 million throughout the year; it did not exceed only one million in the year. Moreover, it significantly increased public awareness about the conditions of these patients and inspired the government to establish 10 regional cancer centers.

Over the next 10 years, compassionate and generous donors who believed that change was necessary helped these physicians to create a flourishing pediatric oncology program that went from a 1 room ward of 8 beds and a tiny outpatient clinic to a 120-bed department and a modern outpatient clinic that saw 150 patients a day and received 1200 new cases yearly.

Dr. Abouelnaga began thinking about introducing a new specialty to the NCI that did not exist in Egypt, called clinical pharmacy, where the pharmacist is responsible for the medicine in all its stages, starting from the procedures of buying it, transferring it, preserving it, and storing it to ensure its effectiveness, then his responsibility in preparing the medicine and participating in determining the doses that differ from one patient to another to achieve the highest effectiveness and the least complications with rationalizing drug consumption and rationalizing expenses.

In 1994, the first clinical pharmacy in Egypt was established inside a room in the institute; attached to it were a kitchen and a bathroom, and this beginning was the nucleus of establishing the largest department of clinical pharmacy in Egypt inside 57357, which is now a reference for this specialty, a team works at the highest level, and it includes precise specialties that are unparalleled elsewhere in Egypt. It grants the first Pharm D in this specialty in cooperation with the University of Colorado, USA.

In an era of continuous improvement, the idea of a state-of-the-art hospital dedicated to children with cancer began to take shape. In 1996, Dr. Sherif Abouelnaga visited St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in the U.S. Inspired by their model, he replicated it in Egypt. Upon his return, he shared his vision with Dr. Reda Hamza, who encouraged him to pursue the creation of a specialized pediatric oncology hospital.

Dr. Abouelnaga then invited Mr. Hossam Kabbany, Mr. Mohamed Moheb, and Mr. Ahmed Moussa, “The owner of Atlas Factories,” to his house, sharing his dream of a dedicated facility for pediatric cancer care. They believed in his vision and supported the initiative.

Planning for the hospital began in 1998 with the formal creation of the Association of Friends of the National Cancer Institute (AFNCI). The Association, which initially brought together many of NCI’s pediatric oncologists with the Society’s renowned businessmen and charitable women, was instrumental in considerably improving the outcome of children with cancer at the National Cancer Institute.

Around the same time, Professor Dr. Mohamed Reda Hamza, Dean of the National Cancer Institute, was exploring opportunities to expand the existing institute for children. However, he ultimately encouraged Dr. Abouelnaga to consider constructing a separate hospital dedicated to pediatric cancer care. This new hospital would cater to the increasing needs of children with cancer and aim to improve their survival rates. This marked the beginning of the journey towards establishing the Children’s Cancer Hospital 57357.

Recognizing the importance of this initiative, four prominent women from the Egyptian community joined forces with Dr. Abouelnaga to lead the effort to build the hospital. The late Mrs. Ola Ghabbour, former Secretary General of the 57357 Foundation and co-founder of the Hospital, The late Mrs. Sohair Farghaly, The late Mrs. Fekreya Abdel Hamid, and Mrs. Somaya Abouelenein, along with businessman Eng. Hossam El Kabbani met with Dr. Mofid Shehab, the then President of Cairo University. They successfully gained approval to construct a children’s cancer hospital, marking a significant milestone in their journey.

This hospital would be built by donations and would be available for all children with cancer regardless of creed, race, or ability to pay, and so the process began. The group raised 8 million LE as seed money from pledges from prominent businessmen and citizens to start the project.

Ola Ghabbour approached Dr. Ahmed Fathy Sorour, the respected Speaker of Parliament, with a significant request. She sought his assistance in obtaining land near the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The land measures 800 square meters. Her initiative marked a pivotal moment in our journey towards providing enhanced healthcare for children. 

This is a testament to the power of collaboration and shared vision in significantly impacting pediatric cancer care. The hospital strives for excellence in providing the best possible care for children with cancer.