What would you do when you reach the tail end of your long and successful career? Many would gladly retire and live a comfortable life touring the world, volunteering at a nearby elderly home or pet shelter. For one brave soul, it jumpstarted her second career in nursing.
Nurse Carol on a home visit to an elderly patient.
Carol Toh, 64, a Senior Palliative Care Nurse with HCA Hospice (HCA) retired from a fruitful career in the human resources sector at age 50. However, a relaxed and comfortable life was far from her ideal retirement plan. Two years of nursing school and five years working in the profession later, Carol decided to focus on palliative care to serve those with life-limiting illnesses – a life which would lead her to give more of herself than she could ever imagine.
Dr Tan Chek Wee, a doctor with HCA and long-time colleague of Nurse Carol shared about the many instances where he was inspired by her selflessness. “There was a bed-bound patient who had an extremely dysfunctional family background – his wife left him some years ago; his son, son-in-law, granddaughter and grandson-in-law were in prison because of drug abuse. He was alone and abandoned, and faced extreme financial difficulties. Due to his deteriorating condition (cancer of the prostate and paralysis from waist down), he became bed-bound and survived mostly on a milk supplement diet.
A gentle touch and caring words of concern exemplify Nurse Carol.
Carol made it a point to visit him every other day to bring him packets of milk, which she stacked on a chair where he could easily reach. She also brought him his favourite teh tarik and toast at her own expense. She worked beyond her regular hours to clean him, empty his urine bag, sometimes even mopped his floor and dressed his pressure sores. Through her networking and tireless efforts, she eventually helped him to secure a place in an in-patient hospice where he passed on in relative comfort and peace.
Patients who have been marginalised, socially isolated or estranged from their own families hold a special place in Carol’s heart.
There was a patient who was released from prison earlier than expected due to his advanced terminal illness and had no home to go to. He had to sleep on a sofa in a Chinese temple as he was financially impoverished after years of being incarcerated.
When the situation calls for it, Nurse Carol rallies her team of doctor and medical social workers for support or advice.
Carol garnered the help of her colleague, a medical social worker, to help secure a rental flat for him. She also forked out money for a bed, pillow, bed linens, table, chairs, household appliances and groceries to assist him in his daily living needs and he was able to experience compassion, care and kindness in the last leg of his journey.“Resilient, determined and resourceful” is how Angela Tan, Director of Nursing at HCA describes Carol. “She will always do her best to help her patients and caregivers overcome the worst situations and ensure they have comfortable care and a dignified death,” Angela says.
Carol receiving her award from Minister for Health, Mr Gan Kim Yong at the Healthcare Humanity Awards 2018.
For her patients, Carol has gone many miles beyond the call of duty. In recognition of Carol’s unwavering dedication and selflessness, she was recently conferred the Healthcare Humanity Award (Intermediate Long-Term Care category).