It was back in late 2004 when we had our rotation at the Cancer Institute of the Philippine General Hospital. I remember our first day when our clinical instructor toured us in the unit – every room seemed to have this gloomy air in it. Of course, I whispered to myself, it is a cancer ward. Everyone knows what happens there…and everyone knows what type of patients nurses have to deal with.
In the middle of the seemingly endless walk in the gloomy corridors stood a wide airy room. Two large verandas were built inside, overseeing a garden and the busy streets of Padre Faura Street. It seemed to be the only nice place in the shadowy halls of that building. The sign on the door intrigued me very much: HOSPICE CARE.
At that time I had no idea what it means. But then, as if my clinical instructor was telepathic enough to sense the brewing question in my mind, she began, “this is the hospice care room – this is where they place the patients who are terminally ill and are only receiving supportive care from the facility.” And then, I understood. In simpler terms, this was the room where people are just waiting for their time to join the Creator.
With my young mind, I remember that I was praying silently that I would be assigned in another room for the four-day rotation. Terminally ill sounded to me like a handful of work. Guess what? I got the opposite of what I wished for.
That was the day I met Nanay. She was in her early sixties when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. The moment she was assigned to me, the cancer had already metastasized in her bones and she has already developed pathological fractures. Her daily routine comprised of lying in bed the whole day and groaning out of pain. She seldom eats or takes her medicine. Morphine doesn’t seem to help her that’s why she decided to stop taking it anyway. One of her daughters was watching over her and was obviously already experiencing much stress because of the situation.
I only had the chance to take my nursing history and perform my physical assessment the following day. I arrived at the room with her refusing to take her medications again. In an attempt to help reduce the daily bouts during medication time, I asked her daughter what Nanay used to love doing before she got the “dreaded C.” She said that Nanay used to love gardening and that their backyard was a testimony to that. And instantly, I saw a gleam in Nanay’s eyes – like that of child’s when one sees the sight of a candy bar. Her groans that day were interrupted with stories about her plants. She boasted how her garden cannot be compared to the one found in the hospital grounds.
That afternoon, as soon as I got home, I called my friend to accompany me to the mall to find a plant that I can give as a present for Nanay. I realized though that finding a plant for sale in the middle of the metropolis was not an easy task. However, upon sifting through the stalls, we came across a store that sold fortune plants. The only thing that I can afford that time was the one comprised with two small stalks tied with a red ribbon, tucked in a tiny pot with pebbles.
The next day, as I held the tiny plant behind my back as I entered the room, Nanay was in her bed as usual, in the middle of a building argument with one of the staff nurses who was trying to make her take her medications. I greeted her cheerfully and said I had a surprise for her if she promised to take her medicines for the day. Before she had the chance to protest, I held my little gift in front of her. I saw her eyes lit up instantly as if I was giving her a suitcase with a million pesos inside instead of the tiny plant.
She turned towards her nurse and said, “I want to take a bath today, drink my medicines and eat.”
The nurse smiled and turned to face me with a surprised look.
“Also, I want to ride the wheelchair today and go outside.” Nanay added.
And then and there, we witnessed a miracle. It was as if everything about her came alive. Her groaning was replaced with laughter, her bed was now empty, because she sat on the wheelchair most of the day, going around the corridors and talking about the plants she had back home in Isabella. All of us were happy that day – the nurse who finally got Nanay to cooperate, her daughter who finally saw life coming back to her mother’s eyes, and Nanay who finally had a chance to hold in her hands something precious to her that she can take care of for a change.
That was the day that I first fell in love with my profession. Seeing someone who seemed hopeless a few days ago came alive before my very eyes. It was what every nurse would have wished for, to see a patient in the midst of her long suffering regain the life that she lost when she was diagnosed with her illness.
Though I wanted to say that it was a happy ending all throughout, reality took its toll. After a week that I spent with Nanay, my classmate told me that she has deteriorated during the middle of the week and was advised to go home to Isabella to spend her last days with her family. Her daughter messaged me a few days later that Nanay stopped breathing as soon as they reached Isabella – Nanay was home.
Photo credit: blog.faboverfifty.com
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