Seeing beyond what appears - Sharing by a healthcare professional
We had this patient once in our palliative ward. Do you know what "palliative" means? Patients who are in our palliative wards, according to medical evaluation, will die within the next three months. For them, it's not easy to live, especially since their deaths are predicted.
Our patient had severe cancer of the neck. When bandaged, it was just a large lump on his neck. In fact, he looked normal. Even before he passed away, he was mobile - walking around and moving about.
When the nurse removed his bandage, you could observe the tumor disintegrating. It was rotting and smelling, a festering boil. His mother had never seen the bare tumor - it would be just too traumatic. To look after him, his mother visited him frequently.
This patient, he had many unresolved issues. I’m not really sure if you can place yourself in his shoes and imagine his pain, confusion and turmoil. He had an unmarried partner cohabiting with him, someone whom he loved dearly. There were all sort of complicated feelings with this unmarried lady.
If you're dying – you people are still young – but, if you’re dying, there’ll be all sort of questions in your mind. Have you lived your life well? What are the regrets you have? The meaning in your life, the meaning of existing? Questions with no clear answers.
In his will, this patient left everything – all his assets, including his fully paid flat - to his partner. His mother did not receive anything.
Can you imagine how his mother felt? She was upset that she didn't receive anything and she only found this out after his son passed away.
But, please, don’t judge.
Can you imagine how he must have felt when he decided to do this? The thoughts going through his mind? How his partner felt?
Coming to such a decision wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy for everyone involved.
So, please, don’t be judgmental.
Patients, when they reach our palliative wards, are usually financially and emotionally exhausted. They would have gone through the entire healthcare system. I’m not saying that it’s right for them to be rude, but it’s understandable when they are.
If a wife with a terminally ill husband wants to go on an overseas holidays for two weeks, we shouldn't judge. Maybe she is thoroughly exhausted and needs a break from looking after her husband. Maybe she needs a respite from having her life being subsumed under another’s. Caregivers need to be cared for as well.
Healthcare professionals cannot afford to be judgmental. Nope, we can't.
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