London hospital appoints 'energy channeler' to help young leukaemia patients with side-effects of chemotherapy

Graham King stood last week at a hospital bed and placed his hands gently on the head of a 12-year-old boy suffering from leukaemia. He slowly moved his hands to the boy's chest. Using the power of cosmic energy, Mr King was helping to heal him.

Graham King stood last week at a hospital bed and placed his hands gently on the head of a 12-year-old boy suffering from leukaemia. He slowly moved his hands to the boy's chest. Using the power of cosmic energy, Mr King was helping to heal him.

In a ground-breaking move to complement conventional cancer treatments, Mr King, who has no medical qualifications, has been appointed the first paid National Health Service healer to help Britain's sick children. With the blessing of the hospital's senior consultants, Mr King was laying his hands on the body of Martin Johnson, who in 2003 was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia that can prove fatal.

He was being treated with reiki, a type of healing which is believed to have originated in Tibet thousands of years ago. Practioners claim to channel energy into recipients using their hands placed on particular areas of their body.

Mr King, 57, is now employed by the paediatric oncology ward, an acute cancer unit at Middlesex Hospital in London. He treats around eight children a week during 30-minute sessions, always with consent from parents. Patients remain fully clothed.

Martin, whose condition has an 80 per cent cure rate, has been receiving healing since August. An outpatient who is being treated with chemotherapy, he comes to the hospital twice a month for the complementary therapy for help with side-effects.

"My mum said it didn't have anything to do with needles, so I thought OK," says Martin, who lives in London. "I like it. It releases pain from the joints and gives you energy throughout the day. It's made quite a big difference. The side-effects aren't that bad any more. Sometimes you can imagine colours, sometimes you can twitch a bit."

His mother, Elza Johnson, 52, didn't need to be asked twice when staff suggested Martin try healing."I thought it was a good idea," says Mrs Johnson. "I was really pleased. The steroids have 22 side-effects including insomnia, mood swings, joint pains and backache. He's having pain relief and it helps him cope."

Does she think it will cure him? "As a mother I have to try everything. I believe he will be cured both through reiki and the medication. If a doctor doesn't succeed with a certain patient it's not because they can't cure the disease. They don't succeed because the body is weak and can't take any more chemotherapy. Reiki is supposed to inject energy into the body."

Ellie Stone, 10, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in December, has had three reiki sessions. Her father, Chris, 37, a hospital director, says: "It's clear that she finds the experience relaxing and calming. The treatment lasts two years, and involves intensive chemo- therapy. Anything that one can do to help the system through that process we will do."

Staff on the ward requested that Mr King work with them after seeing the results he and his wife, Angie Buxton-King, a spiritual healer also funded by the NHS, had had on adult patients in the haematology department of University College Hospital.

One was advance nurse practitioner Krissy Nemeth. "The patients raved about it in haematology, and we would refer some of our children for a session if they had a needle phobia or were really scared about certain procedures. Their parents firmly believed in complementary therapy. We then put in a bid for Graham to work here for two days a week. We see him very much as part of our team. I wouldn't believe some of the things that I've seen - children who kick and scream about having a blood test just hold out their arm for a doctor to take blood after having reiki. These are children who you couldn't even walk near. I'm sure there are a lot of doubters out there but there will always will be when it comes to complementary medicine."

Mr King came across reiki, which was rediscovered by Dr Mikao Usui in the 19th century, around 13 years ago. Following training, he became a reiki master nine years ago and now works full-time as a healer. "Reiki has a way of relaxing people and helping their body and immune system to cope with the various treatments," says Mr King, of Pimlico, Hertfordshire. "We channel energy. Some children think it's weird at first because they feel extreme heat in their body. They might feel tingling, they might feel waves in their body, they might feel colours."

But does healing really work? Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the Peninsula Medical School at Exeter and Plymouth universities, believes it may well be all in the mind. "The evidence is extremely mixed for any form of spiritual healing, including reiki," he says.


* Reiki can be traced back several thousand years - it was practised in the Tibetan mountains

* It was revived around 100 years ago by Japanese Christians who suggested Jesus was a reiki master

* Believers claim reiki channels 'chi', the underlying force that guides the universe, to heal individuals

* The chi is administered by practitioners who pass their hands over afflicted parts of the body

* Reiki is said to be useful for dulling pain, healing wounds and broken bones, calming stress and achieving a balanced state

* Animals, plants and 'life situations' can all be dealt with through the healing hands or crystals used by reiki masters

* More than 60 million people follow reiki worldwide and at least a million practise it. More than 2.6 million webpages are dedicated to it

* One US group believes reiki gives its members the power to talk to their dogs