How the care you provide makes the patient and family relieved from their suffering! Not only the physical suffering; here is an experience shared by Dr. Biji M. S. of Malabar Cancer Centre, Thalasseri.
Chandramathi’s (name changed) disease, Carcinoma rectum, was in an advanced stage when she first came to our Palliative clinic, a year before. She was referred to our clinic by the treating oncologist for symptom management.
Days passed by… Chandramathi was going through a tough phase of the disease with various physical problems. She became a familiar face to us as she visited our clinic several times with her multiple symptoms
She was living with her 30-year-old son. Despite repeated counselling sessions, he could not accept the fact that his mother’s disease was incurable. When she developed brain metastasis, she underwent palliative radiation. But soon her condition deteriorated further because the disease spread to her lungs too. Unable to see her suffering, the son called us to ask if he could take her to a nearby hospital for oxygen support. I said yes, he could.
Soon I got a call from the hospital where he had taken her. “They are asking if she should be put on the ventilator. I need to give her the best treatment,” he said. I had told him multiple times about the futility of managing his mother on the ventilator. He had not yet discussed this issue with his sisters but he wanted to discuss the matter with me.
“I want to discuss with you, I need your advice”, he said. I thought for a while, I had to answer him! “If it were my mother, I would not have agreed to put her on a ventilator.“ He disconnected the call.
His phone calls used to be long conversations because he always had so many doubts regarding his mother’s illness. I always tried my level best to give him proper guidance. I thought that these discussions would be helpful for him to vent his emotions out. But this time, he had disconnected the call so quickly! Next day he called me to inform that his mother was no more. ‘Thank you doctor for everything’- he said in a trembling voice.
He came to meet us after a few days to hand over the remaining morphine and to donate the rest of the medicines for other patients. He looked relaxed. Now when I think about Chandramathi, I wonder whether she would have spent her terminal days imprisoned in an ICU attached to a ventilator, if I had not answered her son’s last question. The lesson I learnt was, if we care for our patients sincerely, they trust us, and seek our guidance when they are faced with a dilemma.
The author is currently working as Assistant Professor at the Department of Cancer Palliative Medicine, Malabar Cancer Centre, Thalassery.