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“Precious Gems 11″ – When We Have to Say Goodbye
31 March 2017

I was with our nurse and doctor at a patient’s home when our nurse received a call.  She told the caller : “I am at another patient’s home and will get to your place in about 45 minutes.”  “I am sorry, that’s the earliest that we can be there” was our nurse’s response to the apparently anxious person at the other end of the line. Our nurse meticulously completed her examination of our patient and provided the necessary care advice before we took our leave.

When we arrived at the next stop, the gates were wide open. We entered the house and the atmosphere in the HDB flat was sombre. Mr Lim* met us near the entrance and directed us to the hospital bed at the far end of the living room. As we approached the bed, I saw a frail, old lady lying on the bed with her eyes closed. She was very thin, practically skin and bone and quite yellow. Our doctor examined her briefly and looked at her watch. Around the living room were three other ladies.

Our nurse took Mr Lim aside and spoke gently with him. Mr Lim broke down and cried, “I wish that I had taken better care of Mom”. Mom had suffered from liver cirrhosis and in the last week, could not eat and deteriorated quite rapidly. Our nurse consoled Mr Lim telling him that he had done his best. More importantly, she assured Mr Lim that Mom knew that, and her wish to die at home was fulfilled. Mr Lim related that when he checked on Mom at 6am, she still felt warm to the touch but at around 8am, he saw that she was no longer breathing and had called our nurse at 8.30am. He had called again at about 10am. That was when our nurse told him that we would be at his home later. As Mr Lim was financially needy, he could not afford to call a doctor to issue the CCOD (Certificate of Cause of Death) and had called us instead, to help sign off on the CCOD.

The three ladies then came forward and introduced themselves. Two were older sisters and the younger woman was the patient’s niece. The two sisters asked in Teochew, “Is she gone?”, “What time did she go?” Our doctor stoically replied that as she examined Mom at about 11am, the time stated on the CCOD will be that. The ladies protested slightly but finally accepted our explanation of the process.

Mr Lim pulled himself together and asked our nurse’s help on next steps. He would have to report the death at the nearest police station, get in touch with the Town Council for use of the void deck for Mom’s wake and finally contact the funeral director.

Before we took our leave, our nurse adjusted Mom’s blouse, gently placed Mom’s hands together, to rest on her abdomen and finally paid her respect with three bows. Mr Lim and his family thanked us profusely, as we left. I was very proud of our team. They were most professional and yet sensitive to the needs of the caregivers. Truly GEMS from HCA!

*Not his real name