Thursday, 6 December 2018
by Elsie Sowah, MBBS 2021
On Saturday1 December the echo of the Cyprus Boy Scouts’ marching band reverberated throughout the lobby of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) Central Office in Nicosia at around 10:05am to mark the start of the 8th Annual Christmas Fiesta hosted by the Cyprus Anti-Cancer Society. Not too far from the band could be found the Mobile Clinic stand, ideally situated at the entrance next to the ticket booth. Across two shifts spanning the entire day from 10:00-18:00, 20 medical students performed blood pressure measurements for interested Fiesta attendees. The soundtrack of the day was that of children singing and playing, family members and friends calling out to one another, Christmas music: the buzz of holiday cheer.
This was the fourth consecutive year that the Mobile Clinic participated in the Christmas Fiesta. The Fiesta attracts approximately 5,000 attendees each year, and is the Cyprus Anti-Cancer Society’s premier annual event. The Anti-Cancer Society is a non-profit organisation dedicated to providing a wide range of palliative care services for patients with end-stage cancer. The Society owns and manages the Arodaphnousa Hospice in Nicosia, and the Evagorion Palliative Care Centre in Limassol
The success of the Fiesta is undoubtedly due to the dedication and expertise of its founder and Chief Organiser Marlene Demetriou, an Assistant Professor of Marketing and Management at the University of Nicosia. Eight years ago when she became a member of the Board of the Cyprus Anti-Cancer Society, Marlene formed a social partnership between the University of Nicosia and the Society, whose first joint venture was the very successful inaugural Christmas Fiesta. Eight years later, the cumulative success of the Fiestas and the annual Easter Festival continues to have a tangible impact on palliative care in Cyprus.
The University of Nicosia is actively involved as one of many local organisations participating in the daylong event. At the entrance hall there was a small Christmas market selling items ranging from candles and honey to baked goods, while in the cafeteria, there was a variety of culinary offerings. Each year, however, the major attraction of the day is the song and dance performances by local schools, which continued in fifteen-minute blocks throughout the day. People of all ages come either to perform or to support children, friends, and family members who are performing. The plethora of intergenerational activities makes it a day-out for the entire family.
The diversity of community representation at the Christmas Fiesta uniquely characterises this Mobile Clinic destination. While most excursions take volunteers far out of the city, the Fiesta’s location right in the middle of Nicosia made for an equally rewarding yet more varied and high-energy experience. Students took turns in engaging with the crowd to inform and guide people towards the Mobile Clinic stand, where they could have their BP measured for free. A contribution box was placed on the table for those visitors who wanted to make a donation. Even the EAC mascot couldn’t resist!
One of the day’s first patients was a first-time Fiesta attendee, newly moved to Nicosia, who came with her two children. She was visibly pleased with the opportunity for a BP measurement, saying: “It’s good that the Mobile Clinic is providing the service because I’ve never had my BP measured, so today it’s just accidental, and it’s nice to see that it’s good!”
With such a diverse patient population came a broad variety of motivations, medical history, and perspectives among the patients. Curious children climbed up on chairs and proceeded to happily watch their arms become progressively engulfed by BP cuffs while smiling for their entertained parents. Young adult patients were mainly other volunteers or employees from vendors who had varying levels of concern but thought “why not? Since the Mobile Clinic is here, might as well…” Older patients approached our stand with more earnest interest. Almost none of these patients left before asking with genuine concern: “Is it OK?” Of those patients who had high BP readings, some had been previously aware of it, or had been monitoring it, although many were finding out for the first time at the Fiesta.
Throughout the entire day, the Mobile Clinic performed an estimated 300 BP measurements. This and the momentary breaks to watch performances, buy Christmas goodies and, of course, indulge in the various culinary offerings ranging from fondue to crêpes to risotto, made for a very full and fulfilling day.
According to Marlene Demetriou, the Cyprus Anti-Cancer Society’s Arodaphnousa Hospice plans to increase its capacity to double the number of rooms next year in order to accommodate patients who are at the earlier stages of cancer. It goes without saying that the Mobile Clinic Club will be back in full force to support this worthy cause…Perhaps Mickey and Minnie Mouse Santa will need their BP checks next year?
Student volunteers: Annefa Burke, Safaa Dimashki, Mohammad Ghotmi, Hassan Jouni, Ali Kareem, Danna Kashlan, Gabriel Lipsyc, Mohlaka Makenete, Ian McDermott, Kaviyanka Selvasandran, Zahraa Hachem, Sam Janion, Edwin Weisong, Michelle Mathieu, Nicholas Reid, Olivia Sondhi, Manisha Arachchilage, Mahmood Al-Rajhi, Dionysios Kostallas
Faculty/Staff volunteers: Dr Nicos Michael, Dr Chloe Antoniou, Ms Andrie Georgiou, Ms Eliana Christophorou