Saturday, June 13, 2009

My first encounter - Baby with Cancer

During my term with Hospice, this is one of my most ‘heartrending’ story.

I was asked to go to a house to help baby sit and allow the mother to take a rest. Taking the case file, I read it. This is a family consisting of a husband and wife and a baby girl of 1 year old. The patient is the baby girl. She was diagnosed with brain tumor.

I hesitated. The matron looked at me, waiting for my comment. I think she watched my reaction because normally I will say ‘Leave it to me’. This time I was silent. Many thoughts went through my mind. ‘How am I going to handle this?’, ‘How am I going to deal with the parents?’, ‘What am I going to say to them?’, ‘How will I react to the baby?’ ‘Is she alert?’……thoughts after thoughts…’Will I breakdown?’, ‘Can I take this case?’…….I realized the human brain is astonishing…within seconds so many thought processes came and went.

Matron was silently waiting for my consent. I looked up and I said ‘I really don’t know how to handle this case?’ I have never done kids and I don’t think emotionally I can handle this? Matron was very kind. She nodded and smiled ‘Maybe I should give you another case and pass this on to another volunteer’. At this point a thought flashed across my mind ‘Lian, take this. The parents are young and they must be very hurt by now. Go with an open heart. React to situation. Don’t anticipate and don’t think too much.’ Immediately I said ‘No, Sister Janet, I think I will take this case.’ Matron smiled widely and she said ‘I will get Nurse Lin to go in with you the first time. You will see what she does and tell me again whether you are comfortable’.

We made a date and I met Nurse Lin at the void deck. We went up to the 12th floor and Nurse Lin knocked on a door. It was a corridor 4-room flat. There was no door bell.

A man came to open the door. Nurse greeted him ..

Nurse Lin : Good afternoon Alan, I brought you a volunteer.
Me : Hello Alan, my name is Lian. I am assigned to be your family volunteer.
Alan : Please come in. (He unlocked the gate and and we walked into the living room. It was a bit messy. I looked into the kitchen. Pots and some unfinished food were on the kitchen dining table.)
Nurse : Where is your wife?
Alan : She is in the room with Tammy. I think you have to talk to her. She has been carrying Tammy and did not want to let go. She did not eat and shower. I don’t know what to do with her. I need to go to work and my Mum came over. Mum complained that she did not even come out of the room.

I was silent, trying to gauge the situation. I saw a young man of about 28 to 29 years old. Tall and slim but look tired. There are stubs on his face so he hasn’t been shaving. I peeped into the bedroom as it was slightly opened. I saw an unmade bed with blanket and pillows not arranged.

Nurse Lin : {knocked}…Teresa, I am Nurse Lin, can I come in?
(No sound)
Nurse Lin : (opened the door softly and walked in. I followed behind her with Alan). Hi Teresa, we are here to see you and check on the baby. This is Lian, your volunteer. She will come in once or twice a week to help you with baby.

She was a petite lady with long hair curled to the top of her head. She wore a white tee and a black short. The room has a baby cot, a pram, and soiled baby clothes in a basket, baby powder on a counter. I saw a small baby curdled in the arms of the lady. The baby was not alert (meaning the baby looked like she was sleeping).

Nurse Lin : Let me see the baby? (She took the baby however Teresa was not willing to let go.)
Nurse Lin : Teresa, I need to check the baby so that I can give her the medicine and see if we need to change.
Alan : Give the baby to the Nurse. She is checking the baby and if you don’t let go how she can help us. (Alan was a bit unhappy and impatience).
Me : (I walked up to her). Hi Teresa, I am Lian. Please give your baby to Nurse. (I gently touched her arm.)

This is the first time I had a close look at her. I saw an undernourished lady. Her eyes were blood shots. She smelled probably from her clothes. Her cheekbones deepened and I can still see she had dimples. She gave her baby to Nurse Lin reluctantly and looked at her husband timidly.

Me : Teresa, maybe you should go and take a shower. Change into clean clothes and your baby will smell a nice smelling mummy.

She looked at me. I saw sadness in her eyes. I saw volumes of unspoken words choked in her. I saw that she has been crying. I saw a helpless mother in pain. My heart broke.

Me : (I held her hand)… come Teresa, let me help you. (I followed her to her bedroom. She took the trouble to make the bed a little .) Sorry my bedroom is in a mess. Only my husband sleeps here. I sleep with the baby in the baby room. (I nod my head. The bedroom smelled too. Gosh, where are the family members, relatives etc. No one came to help them?)
Me : You go and bathe. Let me help you clean up the house. I think you need to change fresh bed sheet and pillow cases.

Her husband came in and help me pulled out the bed linens, collected all the soiled clothes, change fresh bed linens and put all those dirty clothing into the washing machine. I asked her husband for paper bags and I cleared up all the food left on the dining tables, take all the dirty plates to the sink and soaked them. I took a piece of wet cloth and wiped the table and coffee table and furniture. I swept the floor and the husband took a mop and cleans the place. I washed up the plates, cups, and dirty table cloths. As I was doing all that, my heart hurts badly. I am thinking if I am the mother, I probably will be in this state or maybe worst. Where are the relatives? Don’t both the husband and wife have families?

Nurse Lin was bathing the baby, changed her clothes and powered her. I changed the bed sheet on the baby cot and sweep and mop the baby room. Actually the baby room is clean. The only thing is baby powered fell on the floor and on the baby sheet. Pampers were not kept properly. Nurse Lin put the baby in the cot. We looked at each other, speechless and we knew we are not supposed to comment. When Teresa was bathing in her room, Alan too bath in the kitchen bathroom. When both husband and wife were cleaned, all four of us sat in the living room. Nurse Lin asked about the medicine feeding, how is she managing and coping. Nothing much were said. Nurse Lin took her leave and I wanted to stay a little longer. It was about 5pm. Alan said he was going to buy dinner and left me with Teresa.

Me : How do you feel after the shower? Better right?
Teresa : Humm.m.m. (She slumped on the armchair. She got up and wanted to walk to the baby room.)
Me : (I held her wrist and said) Baby is sleeping, sit down for a while. It is not good to carry her all the time because she will feel hot.
Teresa : (Looked at me with sad eyes. She sobbed) I rather I am the one who is sick. Tammy is so small. Alan’s mum blamed me for giving birth to a girl. Now Tammy is sick, she blamed me that I have sick genes. (I was shocked at this outbreak. I asked….)
Me : Where is your family?
Teresa : My Mum is too old to travel here and I have no relatives except Alan’s family. (She sobbed. I cried in my heart. Lonely and no support. Our duty is to support the patient and patient’s family and not suppose to remarks or comment about any family matters.)
Me : No, it is not your fault. No one wants the baby to be sick. You will be the last person. You are the mother and you will feel the most pain.
Teresa: (nod her head)…but they don’t understand. I am very tired. I wish I can just carry Tammy and we just jumped down and end these sufferings.(I was shocked!)
Me : No, Teresa, that is not a wise thing to do. What will happen to Alan. He is very sad too and if he lost both of you, what is going to happen. (I tried to change her thoughts.)

We spoke about how she met her husband. Where she worked. I talked to her about anything to take her mind off. Alan came back with fried rice, fried noodles and duck rice. We sat eating at the coffee table. Conversations were casual. I told Alan that he should take turned so that Teresa can sleep. With that I took my leave, it was near midnight.

I went back again after 3 days. When I stepped into the house, I heard Teresa crying. I saw some relatives and I believed one was the mother-in-law. Alan was crying too. I quickly walked into the baby room and when Teresa saw me, she cried even louder….

Teresa : Lian, baby is jerking…why? She is vomiting….what can I do?
Alan : Yes, she is like that 15 minutes ago… should we call the ambulance. I called Hospice Doctor and they are coming but we have not seen them yet.
Me : Calm down, let me check. (I called the Doctor and they just arrive at the block.)
Doctor : Hi Lian, what is the situation. ( I waited for them at the lift landing.)
Me : The baby looks like has gone into a fit and she is foaming in the mouth.

Doctor rushed into the room. Took the baby from Teresa. I hugged Teresa and we stood watching while Doctor listens to her little heart. She asked Alan what happened and after a while, Doctor said that baby probably will not make it tonight. Teresa went hysterical, Alan cried and I am holding onto to Teresa. Teresa took the baby in her arms, rocking the baby to and fro….she kept saying…

Teresa : Mummy loves you…mummy loves you…please don’t leave me… (Alan hugged his wife and they both hugged the baby.)

At this point, Doctor knew that the baby had died. Teresa was crying. She refused to let go the baby. Alan is like in a daze. The mother in law and relatives gathered outside the house were crying and whisperings and some were making phone calls. As for me, I cannot hold back my tears. I hugged Teresa as she hugged the baby. What can I say? I just wanted Teresa to know she was not alone…Teresa kept rocking the baby…she keep murmuring ‘Mummy loves you…mummy loves you…please don’t leave me’. Teresa has gone into stage of shocked and she was in a daze. She refused to let anyone take the baby, not even the Doctor. Doctor wrote the death certification. Nothing much can be done. The grieving ones grieved deeply and painfully. The heartbroken ones cried for the grieved parents.

That is Life…but this life is too tender to expire this way. It took three hours before anyone can take the baby away. This was possible because Teresa cried for too long, she fainted on and off. When she woke up, she kept asking for the baby. Alan although heartbroken has to arrange for the funeral but he was lost too. More family members arrived.

For me, I cried in the house and I cried at home. I cried for the mother who lost her child. I cried for the child not having a chance to grow up. I knew I cannot do children…it breaks my heart.

I went back to see Teresa and Alan after a week. Teresa went back to stay with her mother. She needs to grieve with family member around her.

For me, this case is close. This is one of the most heart rendering case I undertook. Little Tammy, wherever you are, may you be well and happy.!

I still cry today when I am typing this....
P/s Alan and Teresa were divorced. Teresa went to Malaysia. Alan married another girl and have a baby boy of 18 months old.

1 comment:

  1. I strongly believe in Karma! There must be a reason for the baby to be born in this Cycle of Suffering! Who knows this baby may just need this birth to be reborn in the higher plane of existence!

    May baby Tammy be well and happy in her next life!