Jayne Kamau In Memoriam

by Bea Wikander | Mar 19, 2019

Jayne Kamau

The child life community is mourning the death of Kenyan child life specialist Jayne Kamau, who was on the Ethiopian Airlines flight to Nairobi that crashed shortly after takeoff on March 10. Jayne was one of several healthcare workers specializing in the care of children with cancer who were killed in the tragic crash.

Jayne worked with the Sally Test child life team at the Shoe4Africa Children's Hospital at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret, Kenya. She was returning home from the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP) conference in Cairo, Egypt, where she presented on child life supports for retinoblastoma patients in Kenya. Retinoblastoma is a rare eye cancer that has a much lower survival rate in Kenya than in the U.S. The cancer is often treated by removal of one or both eyes. Later diagnosis and less focus on the psychosocial care of children make the condition more challenging for Kenyan children and families.

"Even at the most difficult situations, just being there for the child and family, to listen, empathize and advocate for their needs makes me happy."

At SIOP Africa, Jayne presented a poster on her work supporting retinoblastoma patients and their families. Jayne's close friend and mentor Morgan Livingstone, CCLS, CIMI, spoke to Jayne shortly before she boarded the flight. Morgan is the Director of Child Life at the World Eye Cancer Hope charity and first introduced the field of child life to Jayne during a one-day conference in Kenya. Jayne's last words to Morgan were, “I am so glad I came. Thank you for believing in me.”

Inspired by the interest in child life shown by SIOP Africa attendees, Jayne was eager to return home to share what she had learned at the conference and to begin plans for hosting child life interns from across Africa. A founding board member of the Kenya Association of Child Life, Jayne was devoted to building the profession within Kenya and across Africa in a locally sustainable way. You can read more about Jayne's passion for supporting children and families and her commitment to creating sustainable child life programs on the PediaPlay Blog.

Jayne Kamau and Bella Jaboma at SIOP
Jayne Kamau, right, with Bella Jaboma, a friend and colleague from Hope for Cancer Kids Charity in Nairobi, at SIOP Dublin in 2016. Bella was also returning from SIOP Africa on Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.

Morgan recalls Jayne's bravery in taking on new challenges like speaking at local and international conferences and her commitment to the Sally Test child life team at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, where she was a supportive friend and colleague to all. Capable and confident, Jayne supported the largest unit in the hospital, which serves 100 patients a day. She treated everyone with respect and put patients and colleagues at ease with a bright smile that Morgan remembers as "filled with so much love and caring energy." Jayne narrates the the beginning of the Child Life in Kenya video and is also seen in action providing distraction to a patient.

Jayne will be remembered by her friends, family, and coworkers as well as the children and families she served and the international child life community.

Child Life Profession