My first personal
experience with dying and death was my beloved granddad, ‘pops’. I was 22 at
the time and I was unaware nor did I ever think about his inevitable death. The
3rd most killer illness, lung cancer consumed my pops and slowly but
surely took him from us. I was never
informed of his stage 4 metastatic incurable disease so I was unprepared for
his death. It was for my ‘protection’, and my parents believed they were doing
the right thing, although I did suffer from the unexpected and the shock of it
all. I never got to say goodbye. I never visited him in his last week’s so as
not to ‘remember him like that’. I battled with my parents over it for a few
years following his death. However, in hindsight I too think they did the right
thing. I only ever remember him well and happy in his chair at home. I only
have good memories of him.
nonetheless taught me to live in the present, to develop a spiritual life and to
reflect on the curiosity that is life. I became fascinated on the continuity of
life and on my own mortality. It was what first sparked interest in me to go
down the path of medicine.
As a medical student,
although I have yet to experience the death of a patient,dealing with patients
who are dying I have the opportunity to listen to them and to their end-of-life
wisdom as oppose to just their reflection on their lives.
As a future doctor, I wouldn’t change any
aspects of his care (from what I was told), nor would I insist on informing my
younger self, as it was for my best interest I didn’t witness my grandad suffer.
After probing my parents, having just entering medical school, I was informed
my grandad’s autonomy was first and foremost. He was given a warning sign of
what was to come and information was given in chunks. They were informed in a
quiet room and his questions were answered. Misperceptions of my mothers were
corrected and explained. There was open and constant communication between
doctors and family throughout his care. He and the family were aware it was
palliative and incurable. Priests were arranged at several different times to
speak with both family and pops. I was told he was accepting of his death and
was put at ease. He was managed well and pain free, and ‘ready for god to take
I would approach it exactly as it had been.
I would be happy knowing I and the team did the best we could. Communication and
anticipatory planning occurred. They were given fair and true information. Respect
and sensitivity was shown, and constant comfort and support was given.
It is potentially
the most distressing experience a family will ever face, and if I thought I’d
deal with a similar situation like that when I’m a doctor I know I’d sleep
soundly that night.