Friday, June 26, 2009

My first encounter - Gratitude

I was called upon by the Doctor and Matron to visit a patient at home. The case file showed an old lady of 80 years old. She lived with a daughter in a landed property. These are old houses and they are only ground floor. Area is not as big but there are 3 rooms and a big living room.

Before I left for the house call, I was given a background history of this patient. She is diagnosed with cancer of the stomach. She has been fretful and she refused to sleep. She had a God son. He is actually a boy she looked after and he lives across the street. His Mum and Dad worked so Dan was looked after by this old lady and her daughter. Dan loves this old lady like his own grandmother.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, he was the saddest of the whole family. He brought her to hospital. He brought her to chemo. He feed her food and medicine. He sat with her. He was like a son to her. He refused to leave her side and only do so when he had to go to work.

Dan is a General Manager of a company. When I first laid an eye on him, he looked like he needed a shower. He looked tired, hair uncombed and literally at the verge of breaking down. It was his wife that ‘shouted’ for help. She was very upset that Dan spent so much time with the old lady. She was not even related in blood. Maria was even more upset when Dan had an accident while driving to work because he dozed off when driving. Fortunately he was not injured but his wife could not take it anymore. She spoke to him. She asked him to take a break after all the old lady's daughter was there to attend to her needs. Dan refused to listen and they both have heated arguments because of this.

Taking the case file, I arrived at the house. All the furniture in the living room was moved to one side. The old lady’s bed was parked against the wall and she was sleeping in the living room. I introduced myself and spoke to Dan.

Looking at him, I admired him. He cared about an old lady, someone not related in blood. She was only a nanny to him when he was young. His eyes were blood shots and he really looked like he will faint any minute.

Me : Dan, so how are you taking all these?
Dan : I am very sad. She is like my mother. When I was young, both my parents were at work. She cared for me, cooked for me, washed me and she walked me to school.
Me : Isn’t that wonderful. I can understand why you felt this way.
Dan : She is such a good person, why did she need to get such terrible illness?

He put his hands on his face and bent down for about 5 minutes. I knew he was sobbing. I patted his shoulder and rubbed his back consoling him.

Me : Dan, looked here. You have given her all the best attention. You paid her medical bills. You sent her to hospital. You feed her and you sat with her. You did all you can. I am sure she knew you love her.
Dan: No, I did not do enough. I should have visited her more often. My work needs to travel. I did not know she is not well until my sister told me.
Me : Your sister, you mean auntie’s daughter?
Dan : Yes, she is like a sister to me. They are even closer to me than my parents.
Me : Oh I see.

I turned and smiled at a woman of about late 30s to early 40s. She is very much a home person in the way she dressed. She was standing silently when we were talking and on and off feed the old lady with little spoonful of water.

Me : Dan, Doctor asked me to come and sit with Auntie. Why don’t you go home and have a shower and take a good meal. Rest for tonight. You need to sleep because I can see that you are very tired.
Dan: No, it’s OK. I can stay with you guys.


Dan : My wife cannot understand why I need to do what I am doing. She grumbled and picked fights with me. How can a woman be so unfeeling?
Me : No, Dan. Your wife loves you. She is worried about you. You had an accident right? What if you hurt yourself badly? Who is going to look after the old lady? Who is going to look after your wife?

He kept quiet.

Dan : But she needs to understand and support me and not give me more pressure when I am feeling so sad.

I held both his hands with my hands.

Me : Look here Dan, you know Hospice sent me. Their purpose is for you to take a break, will you? For the sake of yourself, your wife and most of all the old lady?

He ruffled his hair..gosh! he did not shave as well.

Me : Dan, I am going to be here. So go home. You are just across the street and I will inform you if I need you. Nothing is going to happen yet, I promise.
Dan : But my nanny does not like strangers. She will look for me.
Me : (very firmed) NO, Dan – you go home now. I don’t want to see you as long as I am here and I am here for the next 3 to 5 hours.

Reluctantly he went home. Before he did, he went up to the old lady, stroked her head, spoke to her in her ears and unwillingly walked away. He smiled at me and said ‘Thank you’.

Me : Nothing to thank! Go…o.o.o.o.!

I walked up to the old lady….she is Cantonese, so below is a translation of my conversation.

Me : Po Po (granny in Cantonese dialect), how are you?
Old Lady : Looked at me and did not say anything.
Me : My name is Lian..or Ah Lin.
Old Lady : I am going to die soon.
Me : Po Po, are you afraid?
Old Lady : No, I am not. but Boy Boy will be very sad. (She was referring to Dan.)
Me : Are you painful?
Old Lady : No, Doctor gave me medicine.
Me : I heard Nurses and your family members said you don’t want to sleep.
Old Lady : I cannot sleep. I won’t open my eyes if I do.
Me : No, Po Po you must sleep. Boy Boy is worried so if you sleep, he will be happy.
Old Lady : Looked at me…no respond.
Me : Po Po, you sleep and I sit here holding your hand.
Old Lady : You will wake me up?
Me : Yes, I will wake you up! Now close your eyes.

I tried to close her eyes but she still opened her eyes widely. I kept telling her to close her eyes. Maybe I said it too many times it was like hypnosis, she closed her eyes. She kept opening and closing and it took her about 15 minutes before she really sleep.

So the whole house quiet down. Her daughter sat on the sofa. The old lady slept. Dan went home to sleep. I sat there alone holding her hands.

In today’s society, when people are so cold – people like Dan is hard to come by. It warmed my heart. Some people cannot even be bothered about their own parents let alone outsiders. How many people remember kindness and how many practice gratitude?

The old lady passed away two weeks later. She passed over very peacefully. Dan came to Hospice. He bought us cakes and thank you cards. There was a special card for me. I was not there when he arrived and the card was handed over to me by matron.

What he wrote made me cry –

Dear Lian

Thank you for being there when we do not know how to cope with nanny. She was more relaxed after your visit. She spoke about you and you will never imagine the impact you made on her. She was not frightened anymore. It must have been your love and reassurance that she was calmer. Forever in debt to you for what you did. My wife and I managed to sort things out too. Do keep in touch and call me if you need anything.

Gratefully Yours
Danny and Maria

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