Basing herself on her own experience of running a hospice for the terminally ill, Dr Lavina explains, with touching true stories and evident expertise, palliative care and what it can do for a person when a cure is no longer possible.
One week after his admission to the hospice facility, Mr. D’ Souza exclaimed: “From being a cancer patient, I became a human being, a person. The hospital used code words to label me. For the longest time I was ‘Ca Lung’ and the doctors and nurses called me just that. I had forgotten what my real name was.” Mr D’ Souza was breathless and in severe pain. Every breath was laborious as a large tumour was constricting his lung. He was hooked on to an Oxygen Concentrator which eased his breathing. He was prescribed Morphine, which relieved his pain and, with that, his spirits lifted too. He was able to speak to his family and even laugh reminiscing old memories. “Why couldn’t you bring me here earlier?” he asked his family.
This is what palliative care does. It does not expedite the dying process, as some think, nor does it prolong life. It focuses on the quality of life and makes the last days as comfortable as possible. In palliative care, the emphasis is on the person and not on the disease. This requires a paradigm shift from the traditional pathology-focussed model of health care delivery. It looks as if, somewhere in the diagnosis-treatment spectrum, the person is often lost sight of, and is reduced to a mere bed number or a diagnostic label.
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Dr Lavina M Noronha