Early this morning at 4.30am, a Vellfire Limousine had arrived my door punctually to pick up my dearest wife. She was being chauffeured to the KLIA airport to catch the first flight to Tokyo, where she would catch a direct connecting flight to Houston in Texas. My wife will be away to attend an important conference about world's educational issues in San Antonio besides visiting selected schools for observation in San Francisco. How I wish I could follow her for another "WORKcation" trip but this is sooo impossible lah. My US visa had long expired liao and her lady boss is following her too. Ooops!! I will be Home Alone until next weekend. Haiks!
A few days ago, my wife visited a patient at her apartment in Happy Gardens after getting the help-requests from Doreen. We shall address this female patient as Madam Tan who is a church friend of Doreen and she is suffering from cancer of her ovary. Doreen had advised her to seek help and care from Hospis but she would need to get a referral letter from her doctor. Madam Tan is now bed ridden and would not be able to download the form from the website for her doctor to sign therefore my wife offered to help her on this. I was a bit sad to see this patient as she has lost tremendous weight, with her all skinny & twisted bones making it extremely difficult to move her frail limbs. Her pitiful sight clearly reminds me of my late mother during her final years. Madam Tan is a single lady who lives alone but her very kind friends helped out by hiring a full time maid to nurse and feed her.
Doreen and I have over 10 years friendship today since the time when her late hubby was stricken with terminal cancer. He was under my care and you can read this story on the last paragraph below.
My wife left me with an instruction to follow up with another patient this morning since she had to leave for overseas. She had earlier taken this friendly gentleman Encik Mohammed to see a clinic's doctor for some tests to certify his sickness to enable him to receive further assistance for palliative care. He was weak and had to struggle a bit to walk when my wife fetched him many weeks ago. This morning, I arrived at his flat to fetch him but his condition has worsened. He could no longer stand up or walk at all and his petite wife had much difficulty to help him. She had no strength to push his wheelchair up the slopes as his weight has suddenly increased like a 'dead-weight' which occurs when a patient has lost their ability to move their limbs besides the massive water retention.
I wheeled him down from the 20th floor of his flat which had 3 very shaky elevators that often broke down every other days. It was scary to imagine what would be like if the elevator broke down while I was inside with this patient in wheelchair who carries a urine bag too. He has colon cancer which has advanced to affect his spinal areas therefore he had to see the specialist at the hospital for further check up and MRI scan. We made our way across the morning's traffic crawl along Jalan Kuching until the hospital where his accompanying wife got down to wheel him inside. I am just sharing with you the reasons he could not be able to rely on taxis or Uber drivers as he has special needs now to be carried up physically when his limbs are sadly too weak to move. The vehicle needs to be able to carry his heavy wheelchair too.
In July 2017, I had posted some sharing on my observations as a caregiver for terminally ill patients in the blog here. Today I will share about Doreen's late husband.
It happened over 10 years ago when fate had arranged to change my life to face the realities of life & death matters by becoming a caregiver myself. My wife had earlier become a Hospis caregiver since 17 years ago as she offered her time to help the NGO when they repeatedly appealed for volunteers to help with their daycare center for terminally ill patients, home visits for the bed ridden and to provide transport to fetch ailing patients to various hospitals for various check up and chemotherapy treatments. My wife had often encouraged me to sign up but I refused flatly as I was too terrified to see terminally ill patients. I would easily cry buckets of tears on seeing them in acute pain and unable to move. I was brought up by my parents who spent their entire lifetime helping the handicapped Spastics Children and running the biggest Home of the Infirm in Penang. To add on with the misery of the terminally ill patients was too much for me to stomach.
One day, my wife told me that she had been assigned to fetch a male patient to hospital for blood transfusion, early the next morning. She had been cautioned that she would have to help to physically carry the patient into her car. Sensing that it might be awkward for her to embrace much bodily contacts to hold a male body, she appealed for me to wake up at dawn to assist her for just once. I agreed reluctantly and followed her to fetch the patient at his house in Puchong. We arrived early before 7.00am as his scheduled appointment was at 8.00pm sharp at HUKM. If one is late, you will have to re-book another appointment for the following weeks as there were always hundreds of patients waiting.
The patient's wife Doreen ushered me to enter his bedroom and at that instant, my jaws dropped in disbelief. The patient Andrew was stricken with the rare bone marrow cancer and had been reduced to just a small body of frail skeletons. He greeted me and smiled shyly. My heart sank further to the floor with my head getting blurry on how I could assist him into my car. My experienced wife was quick and prompted to direct me the gentle way to use my 2 muscular arms to carry Andrew up slowly from his lying position. The minute I carried him, he cried out in pain with tears and I mistakenly thought that I was being too rough and inflicted his immense pain. Doreen sadly told me that his whole body's brittle bones and cells have been infested which causes the slightest pain when touched besides breaking easily too. There was no turning back and Hospis Care promptly appealed for my assistance to help this man who became my 'good friend' for 2 years. He had to make hospital visits every fortnight to receive completely new blood transfusions which would take him 6 hours per visit. He always became chatty and cheerful when his body had been replenished with new blood. It became my routine to fetch him and Doreen, to drop them off before rushing back from my office to fetch him home. Andrew passed away in his sleep 2 years later and it was quite remarkable that he could survive so long as his case was advanced and very suffering. I learnt something from this case that his wife could never get over his death and still calls me every month for the last 10 years! She would just sound cheerful with good greetings over the phone but I could sense that she may have lost her loving husband but part of his memories still lived with me as she had witnessed how I carried and hugged her hubby from the bed to the car and hospital which repeated for 2 years. This had earlier prepared me better that it could also happen to me someday and I should try to overcome this otherwise I might sink into depressions.
Andrew was a Chinese and Doreen is an Indian which blessed them both with a very pretty daughter with mixed Asian looks like an actress. The daughter was 10 years old when her father passed away and today she is in her final year studying law in Kuala Lumpur.
My article is just for sharing and solely for creating some awareness, just in case you might be able to help and advise someone you know who will need the palliative care. Just log in to their Hospis Malaysia website and download the referral form for doctor to certify with signature.