Shooting stars illuminate the night sky for mere moments, but their brilliance leaves an enduring trail of hope. This is the spirit behind the design of the Star PALS logo, and also a core belief that underpins the work of HCA Star PALS Nurse Manager, Lily Li, and her team.
Nurse Lily with Star PALS patient Rashiq and his mother.
Pediatric palliative care is a specialisation shrouded in a myriad of diverse beliefs and opinions. For most, the thought of a child leaving before his or her time is almost too devastating to bear. But Lily’s years of experience in pediatric palliative care have imbued her with a sense of acceptance, evident in her calm demeanour, as she adroitly attends to the numerous tasks at hand..
Despite a hectic work schedule that includes administrative work, training of new nurses and rostering duties, Lily is clear about her priorities. “Patients always come first – if a patient is very ill, all other work commitments will be postponed, so that I can visit him or her,” Lily says.
It is the same dedication to her patients that drives Lily to go the extra mile to make them smile. A craft aficionado, Lily enjoys working on handicraft projects in her spare time. One of her latest projects is a pink unicorn crochet brooch, a work of love she gifted a Star PALS patient who had been hospitalised.
Despite her busy schedule, Nurse Lily finds time to craft little brooches for her patients.
“She was grumpy because she had to be hospitalised,” Lily explains. “But she smiled when she saw the brooch!”
Birthdays are often happy occasions for most, but it can get a little tricky for Star PALS patients. Some families harbour a taboo towards birthday celebrations for children with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions.
Star PALS patient Bella’s birthday celebration was replete with balloons, warmth and love.
For Lily, the birthdays of these children hold deep significance and the Star PALS team often go to great lengths to create meaningful birthday celebrations for families who agree to the idea. “These birthday parties are not just a celebration of life, but also a celebration of the parents’ efforts to nurture their children to the best of their abilities,” Lily shares.
While there is no doubt that Lily’s selflessness has touched numerous lives in the course of her career to date, she has also been irrevocably moved by many of these children.
Facing the brutal reality of illness and pain at an early age often instils in them a maturity far beyond their years. Lily recalls an 11-year-old girl, whose parents had brought her to Singapore from Pakistan to seek treatment for cancer.
“She was so resilient and positive despite the illness,” Lily says. “Eventually, she became bedridden and could only lie on her left side, but that didn’t stop her from trying to make miniature figures or thinking of activities she could do at home.”
One of the girl’s final wishes was to see the Chinese New Year fireworks. Her doting parents organised a staycation for her and Lily took time out of her weekend to ensure that all the necessary medical equipment were properly set up and that she was comfortable. Having established a close relationship with Lily, the thoughtful girl insisted on ordering room service for her.
The young girl eventually passed on a couple of months later. Having formed such close bonds with her patients, how does Lily cope with the losses? Her answer is simple: “There is no easy way to overcome grief – you just have to grieve.”
The Star PALS team holds mortality runs whenever a patient passes on, an initiative to help staff to process their emotions. During these sessions, they are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings within a safe space, which also enables them to derive support from each other.
It has been six years since Lily joined HCA, even before Star PALS was officially started. Humble and unassuming, Lily is not one to hanker after the limelight or flaunt her achievements, but her contributions have not gone unnoticed. She was recently conferred the Community Care Excellence Awards 2018 – Gold Award for her dedication to her work.
Nurse Lily recently won the Community Care Excellence Awards 2018 – Gold Award for her exemplary work.
Nurses like Lily are beacons of light that irradiate patients and their families through the darkness. It is our hope that our beacon’s glow and warmth will reach out to even more patients in need.
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