A Daughter’s Plea

A Daughter’s Plea

Patient: Jyotiben

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“Hi, I know you are here for my mother, but is it possible for you to speak to my father? He can’t see my mother in this condition, he cries all day and doesn’t eat, and I don’t know what to do.”

This was a plea from a daughter’s heart, who couldn’t bear to see her father broken and distraught at seeing his wife dying of cancer.

More often than not, we as palliative care providers, are reminded of the work we are actually doing, the lives we touch, the difference we can make, not just to the patients, but also to their family.

A Daughter’s PleaPALCARE enrolled Jyotiben on the 20th of Jan, 2021. She was a 73-year-old woman, diagnosed with right thigh sarcoma and a fractured knee. She lived with her husband who was 94. They didn’t have children, so her sister had let her adopt one of her daughters at childhood. Jyotiben and her husband raised Kanchan as their own. After her adopted mother got diagnosed with cancer, Kanchan, who lived with her husband and son, rented a second apartment in her building complex so as to be able to bring her parents closer to her.

Kanchan loved her mother dearly. She believed that hiding the prognosis of impending death was being kinder to her mother.

Upon enrolment, the PALCARE team observed and realized the incessant pain Jyotiben was in. The fracture of her knee made it even worse, she had scored the pain an 8 out of 10. She could barely move, as the pain was debilitating. Kanchan was distressed too, and her father was in his room, withdrawn and solemn. To make things worse, a deadly pandemic had gripped the entire world, restricting movement and normal life.

The PALCARE doctor started Jyotiben on pain medications immediately. In just a matter of days her pain was brought under control. All other symptoms such as vomiting, stomach ache, and breathlessness were also brought under control. The relief was palpable and Kanchan’s confidence in the PALCARE service grew immensely.

During one of the home visits, Kanchan requested the PALCARE counsellor to counsel her father who was distressed and had been weeping in his room. The counsellor had a session with the father in which he expressed he couldn’t see his wife suffer any more and asked if there was a way that we could end her suffering. After a long and sensitive conversation, the father seemed to sober down. His pain and distress was acknowledged, and PALCARE assured them that the team would take care of Jyotiben and make her comfortable right through the remaining days of her life. He gradually came to understand and started coping in a much better way which also reduced Jyotiben’s own distress.

Through further visits and counselling sessions, the importance of telling the truth to the patient was also subtly, but strongly, emphasized, and Kanchan was finally able to have that conversation with her mother. The family was prepared for what was to come. Kanchan was in regular touch with the entire team, and was compliant with administering the medications for her mother. She saw the difference in her father’s demeanour, which had become more accepting of Jyotiben’s condition. All three of them were given regular counselling, and any new symptoms that Jyotiben developed, were addressed and brought under control.

Jyotiben passed away on the 27th of Feb, 2021. She didn’t suffer during her death. There is no doubt about the grief Kanchan and her father experienced; but timely palliative care, both physiological and
psycho-social, made the whole process a lot easier.