Posted in Chronic Pain, Daily Post 2012, Family, Family Life, Grief, Jared, Palliative Care, Religion in my world, Terminal Illness, Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

We need a miracle again….


Daniel and Vic 29-01-07

Sr Siza examined Vic today.  She phoned Dr Sue who will be in tomorrow morning.  She also brought a script with for Dalacin antibiotics.  The cellulitis has spread to all three the subcutaneous sites.

Siza expressed her concern at Vic’s decline…

Last Friday Danie, my husband, came and sat next to me and said “I know everyone says it will be better for Vic to die than live in this pain but I was thinking how hard it will be for us without her…”

That statement really shook me.  Up until now death has been a hypothetical issue… Doctors diagnoses and prognosis…predictions…  I have never really considered living without my child.

Last week Siza and I met with the CEO of Amcare, a large community project that provide community based feeding schemes, HIV/AIDS Counselling, Home-based care, skills development, ARV Clinic, women and children shelters.   We are hoping that they will “host” our Hospice at their premises.

The CEO knows Vicky and the boys.  Jared was confirmed in his church earlier this year.

I shared with them how difficult it was to get a terminally ill person into a Hospice Program and that 95% of the dying population die in pain.  Vernon (CEO) quietly listened to us and explained how difficult fundraising is.  Christians are tight with their money…

Vernon then shared the following with us.

“In 2007 I was driving home from a meeting when I felt this urgent need to see Vicky.  I knew she was in hospital as she was on the prayer list.  I drove to the Donald Gordon (Hospital) and was directed to the ICU.  The nurses welcomed me although it was way past visiting time.”

“Pray for her.  We are switching the machines off tomorrow morning…” they said.

I stood next to her bed, raised my arms and prayed that God would spare Vicky for her little boys.  I stood next to a dead person that night.  Two days later I heard that Vicky did not die when the machines were turned off…”

I just stared at him.  I was speechless…  I had no idea!   It was the first time I had ever heard the story!

In June 2007 Vic had developed ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) after a series of operations trying to close up an abdominal fistula.  Her body was excreting up to 7 litres of faecal matter a day and she had every superbug the ICU could offer.  On the Tuesday Vic went into respiratory failure and was ventilated.  I was talking to her when the doctors rushed us out of ICU and put her onto the ventilator.  By the Thursday her kidneys and liver had started shutting down.

ARDS is a severe lung syndrome (not a disease) caused by a variety of direct and indirect issues. It is characterized by inflammation of the lung parenchyma leading to impaired gas exchange with concomitant systemic release of inflammatory mediators causing inflammation, hypoxemia and frequently resulting in multiple organ failure. This condition is often fatal, usually requiring mechanical and admission to an intensive care unit.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acute_respiratory_distress_syndrome

My BFF, Gillian drove 350 kilometres to be with me.  On the Thursday there was absolutely no sign that Vic could or would recover.  Vic had a DNR and a living will that she had provided the hospital.

That evening one of the ICU doctors, Liam, hugged me and said “Mommy, Vic is tired.  You must let her go…”

Gill, Leeann (Vic’s friend) and I went home after visiting hour to talk to the boys.  They were already in bed when we arrived home.  We sat with them

Guys, you know how ill Mommy has been….Mommy’s lungs are not able to work on their own.  Mommy’s kidneys and liver is also not working that well anymore.  The doctors feel that Mommy will not be able to breathe without the machines and that Mommy has suffered too much.  They think it will be better for Mommy to be taken off the machines…”

Jared quietly started to cry.  Jon-Daniel was stoic.  Jared was 10 years old and Jon-Daniel 8 years old.

“What will happen with us Oumie” Jon-Daniel asked.

“Sweetie, Oumie and Oupie will ALWAYS be here for you.  This is your home.”

Jared cried himself to sleep.  Jon-Daniel just clung to me.  The three of us shared a bed that night.

The next morning early Gill, Lee and I set off to hospital.  When we arrived I said “I am not going into that hospital until I have prayed in the Chapel.”

The three of us prayed and it was with absolute certainty that I KNEW Vic would not die that day.

Family and friends drifted in and out of the waiting room the whole day.  My minister came and prayed for my child.  Everyone said goodbye.

That afternoon Danie and I were allowed to see Vic.  The “invasive” ventilator had been disconnected and she had a mask-like ventilator covering her face.  It was a grotesque sight.

Danie held her little hand and his tears dripped onto her arm.

Oh sweetie” he said, the sorrow and pain raw in his voice.

Vic opened her eyes and said “Daddy”….

Three days later Vic was discharged from ICU….. It was not her time.

Today I looked at her and fear struck at my heart.  My child is slowly slipping away.  Her little body is tired of the pain.  Her little organs are enlarged and diseased.  Her bones weak….

And the realisation hit home…. We need another miracle.

God please have mercy on my child.

Posted in Vicky Bruce

What gives life will hasten death


Courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/violetteultracore/7442358584/lightbox/

 

I am so tired.  I think it is emotional more than physical.

Vic went to the movies with her friend Tracey today.  As she wanted to leave, Hospice arrived.  Sr Siza was VERY dubious whether she should go…  Anyway the boys went with to make sure she was okay.  They are so protective of her.

When Tracey dropped her at home she was so tired she could not lift her feet.  She immediately got into bed and I know it will take days for her to recover.  I am grateful that she enjoyed the movie.  I cannot believe my child went and saw The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 2!!  She is the most anti-vampire person I know!

She said “Oh Mommy, the one part was scary but it was so much fun!”

I have read up on the effects of continued morphine administration when someone is in Renal and Liver Failure.  We have no option but to continue the pain medication regime… It will help her live and yet it will certainly contribute even hasten her death.

I don’t care.  I want Vic to be as pain-free as possible.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.  She is literally on a “morphine on demand” regime.  She cannot overdose – she is too used to Morphine.  The dosages have been titrated over many years…

It will be a difficult night.

 

 

Posted in Vicky Bruce

An end of life discussion is one of the most important things to do right


Vic July 2007

This is a subject very dear to my heart.  Vic has been saved from the claws of death so many times in her little life.  I often lie in bed thinking how much physical pain and discomfort I have imposed on Vic by not allowing the doctors to not give up.  By cajoling her into living.  Twice this week I begged her to allow me to take her to hospital.  I promised earlier this year that I would respect her wishes. https://tersiaburger.com/2012/05/18/6-5-2012-3/   

My BFF, Gillian, sent me this email message:

Morning, you summed up “Where did the time go” perfectly. I cannot believe that 8 years have passed so quickly. Jon Daniel was 7 and Dr said he would not understand about death, but Jared 9 would be able to comprehend and mourn. You wonder what is better……. When they are little or older. Vic our miracle child has hung in there for her Angels. She can only be commended on her will power to add another day to their lives. She has no life. Except to smile with sad eyes every time she sees the boys for another day. As hard as it is to nurse your child, you are also spared Another day good bad or ugly. God has sent Vic to us give each one a lesson – not to complain or give up – the Power of the mind. Be grateful for what we have body mind and soul. Love you all with all my heart

What Gillian wrote in her mail is so true.  If I had allowed Vic to die earlier she would of been saved incredible amounts of raw, undiluted suffering and indignity!  A couple of posts ago I wanted to include a photo of Vic’s abdomen so people could understand what a person looks like after 81 abdominal surgeries.  I decided against it as it is too horrific to post.  But we have been blessed with some wonderful times.  The boys are now old enough to understand the extent of her suffering.  At this stage I am focused on her pain.  I remember when I was stressed that she was taking a couple of hundred milligrams of morphine a week.  Now it is a couple of hundred per day…

Reblogged from http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/11/life-discussion-important.html by  on November 11th, 2012 in PHYSICIAN.  I read this on Andrew’s blog  on http://lymphomajourney.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/an-end-of-life-discussion-is-one-of-the-most-important-to-do-right/

During an internal medicine residency, newly hatched doctors are responsible for some of the sickest patients in their teaching hospitals. This is because those patients often don’t have private doctors to attend them and are poor and sometimes self abusive, with the complex problems that go with smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and lack of regular medical care. These patients often present with their diseases late in game, when much must be done quickly.

There is little or no time to discuss end of life issues and so the assumption is made that these folks want “everything done” which includes machines and potions to support organs and bodily functions as they cease to work right. A scenario might look like this: 48 year old heroin abuser comes in with fever of 104 and symptoms of a stroke. He is admitted to the intensive care unit with low blood pressure, becomes gradually delirious and his heart rate increases, he is sedated for trying to crawl out of bed and run off, he becomes lethargic and is unable to breathe for himself, a central line is inserted and he is intubated and put on a ventilator, his blood pressure is supported with pressors and fluids, his oxygen level cannot be supported despite high ventilator settings. His kidneys cease to work and his heart goes into a rhythm that produces no blood pressure at all, he receives CPR with chest compressions, he is resuscitated, but barely alive, unable to communicate, obviously brain damaged beyond repair, placed on dialysis, eventually succumbs to overwhelming infection. We call this a “flail.”  It is horrifying and time consuming and ultimately a colossal waste of human and monetary resources. Repeated experiences of this type sour most of us on the idea of being resuscitated, so many doctors consider themselves “DNR (do not resuscitate).” We don’t want to be resuscitated ever, no matter what. There are some things that are worse than death.

Some resuscitations go well, though. A patient arrives in the emergency department with chest pain, develops an arrhythmia, has chest compressions briefly and electrical cardioversion and is conscious within minutes or hours. Some people briefly can’t support their own needs for respiration and require a few days of ventilation before being able to breathe adequately. Although they are weak and puny for awhile, they go home and live to tell the story, go back to work, raise families, climb mountains. These successes usually happen to people who were vital before they became really sick, the younger folks, without multiple or terminal illnesses to begin with.

When someone is admitted to the hospital, the physician responsible for their care (which is more and more often the hospitalist) determines, if possible what their wishes would be regarding life support should their breathing or heart stop. These discussions are very difficult if the patient has not thought about resuscitation and has not talked with a physician who knows them about options.

Often patients have reasonable hesitance to make potentially life determining decisions with a doctor who they don’t know and who doesn’t have time to talk with them about the implications of these decisions. In our heads we have a pretty good idea of which patients would do well should they require cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and we really want people whose chances of recovery are lousy to tell us that they are DNR. A DNR decision means that will not flail them. We will not get into a situation in which failure is likely. Should this patient become so sick that medicines, hydration and appropriate surgical procedures cannot save them, we will transition to a strategy that makes death peaceful and painless.

We rarely succeed in communicating this to patients and many who will not benefit from cardiopulmonary resuscitation say “Oh yes, doctor, I want everything done.” Some say this because their experiences are different from ours, they have seen doctor shows in which resuscitation was successful, they think that withholding resuscitation means getting substandard care, and sometimes they think that we just want to spare ourselves the trouble of saving them. And some of these concerns are valid. A patient who is “DNR” may not be watched as closely or treated as quickly if they decompensate. Some people with horrible prognoses do get better after being resuscitated, though this is pretty uncommon and usually involves a pretty significant decrement in quality of life.

Even though it is hard to establish trust with patients or their families in the context of being a hospitalist, I think it is one of the most important discussions to do right. It is everso tricky, though. Even asking the question can make a patient frightened or hostile. They wonder if we are asking this question because we secretly think they are going to die soon. They feel that the subject is too private to broach with a near stranger. They have never thought about it and don’t want to start now. They think that if they make a decision not to be resuscitated that their family members will think that they don’t love them.

But sometimes patients have been waiting, oh so patiently, for someone to bring up the subject and be willing to take enough time to answer the questions that they have been afraid to ask. I find that a discussion of resuscitation is best started after I learn about who a patient is and what they have done for a living and what they spend their time doing at home. What were they good at when they worked? Do they have kids or grandkids? Where do they live, do they travel, do art, take care of other people, have pets? It is hard or impossible to help a person navigate the end of life if I don’t know them.

Even though I am a bit biased against intensive and technological medical care, I love actually doing it. The tools of this trade are really clever and the immediacy of the practice is inspiring and brings people together. I have seen beautiful and compassionate intensive care, which makes patients and families feel valued. Nevertheless, there are always the unintentional and casual cruelties of disturbed sleep, needles, boredom, prickly heat, bowel indignities, physical pain and nausea. Death following chest compressions and electrical cardioversion is not peaceful.

When I sit with a person and hear that, no, they don’t want intensive care or cardiopulmonary resuscitation should their heart or lungs cease to work, and it is clear that resuscitation is not in their best interest, my heart feels lighter. I can focus more on what the patient values rather than what procedures are most likely to keep them alive for the longest time.

Janice Boughton is a physician who blogs at Why is American health care so expensive?

Posted in Chronic Pain, Family Life, Grief, Palliative Care, Religion in my world, Terminal Illness, Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

Hospice counseling….


We met with Alan, the Hospice counselor, today.

On our way to Hospice Jon-Daniel sat with his arms crossed muttering “I don’t need to see anyone” under his breath.  “I am like you Oumie.  We don’t talk…”

Yeah”  I said.  “But I really think the time has come for us to talk to someone.  Besides it is part of the Hospice thing.  We have to do it!”

The whole day I was thinking of shrink jokes” Jared said.  “Do you think I can ask him ‘how does this make you feel?‘”

We all laughed.

Guys if we don’t talk to the counselor we may have to come back…. Let’s answer all the questions and get it over and done with….” I cautioned

Alan is a short young man.  I think he is in his early thirty’s.  We shook hands and he asked us how we wanted to “do it?”

The boys went in on their own.  I sat in the waiting room saying a little prayer that they would open up to this professional stranger who is an expert in dealing with death.  Thirty minutes later I was invited in.

The boys tell me they are coping well.  They don’t see the reason for seeing me…..What do you think?  Are you guys coping?”

I was truly taken aback.  “Yes, I think we are coping.

So Tersia, why do you think the boys need to see me?”

I did not speak for a couple of minutes.  I was grappling with my brain as to how much I should tell this stranger.

I think the emotional roller coaster is getting to us.  We have said our goodbyes so many times and Vic always bounces back!” I eventually said.

“Yes, Jon-Daniel said so” Alan replied.

“I worry that the boys live in a home where death lingers.  There is not enough laughter in our home.  It saddens me when they stand next to their Mom’s bed and I see the helplessness in their eyes!” I mused

“I get impatient with Vic.  When she has half a breath she will organize a party.  When the pain medication works she will not pace herself.  She will hurt herself and  then I have to pick up the pieces.  Sometimes I am scared that her suffering will not end. ” I continued.

What type of party will she organize?” Alan asked.

The boys and I laughed!

“It is only a figure of speech….” we explained.  “She will try and do things with the boys and hurt herself.”

What type of things?” Alan asked

Drive and take us for a milkshake” Jared replied.

“Mom forgets things and she thinks we are all against her…  Yesterday she said to me that I must not feel guilty if she dies and I am cross with her…Mom always thinks we are fighting with her….” Jon-Daniel said.

It is not about the final moments.  It is not the final words or even the final disagreement.  It is about the life and all the years of loving before death and dying…. You must not ever blame yourself for anything.  Life is hard for all of you right now.  It is okay to be scared and to get irritated.  You must tell your Mom how you feel.  I am not saying you must back-chat.  What I am saying is that you must tell your Mom how her actions and illness makes you feel.  The household consists of more than one person…. You all have the right to living…”

The boys asked to see Alan for another session….  Thank you God for another angel!

 

Posted in Chronic Pain, Family Life, Grief, Jared, Palliative Care, Religion in my world, Terminal Illness, Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

Mommy, I thought I had more time….


“You matter because of who you are. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can , not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

–Dame Cicely Saunders

Mommy, I thought I had more time…..

Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

Who is taking care of the caregiver? 5.7.2012


When my Dad was ill with Alzheimer’s, I subscribed to two forums/support groups.  I suppose I am not good at letting go because I have not left the groups despite the fact that my dad lost his fight against AD on the 20th of May 2011.  On the other hand Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness and there is a lot of synergy between my Dad and Vicky’s journeys.  I don’t think I would have gotten through my Dad’s journey if it had not been for the Caring.com group.  http://www.caring.com/home-care.  The practical advice of caring for an AD patient was of immeasurable help.  The members support helped us as a family in understanding the destruction of Alzheimer’s and recognizing the stages of the disease.

So when I received the latest post: “Who is Taking Care of the Caregiver While the Caregiver is Taking Care?” written By Carol Blackwell Alzheimer’s Reading Room, I was delighted.  I am in such a depression and totally at a lost as how to get out of it. http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/05/whos-taking-care-of-caregiver-while.html

I just knew there would be solid, practical advice in the article.

Carol Blackwell’s opening question is: “Are you taking care of yourself? You can’t be there for them if you aren’t there for ‘you.’ Your mood and stress affects their mood. It surely isn’t easy and life is sometimes stressful and difficult. Here are some things that helped me—you can decide if they will work for you.”

Exercise

Carol Blackwell wrote “I know you may be thinking you have no time to exercise because you are so busy taking care of your loved one and too tired at the end of the day. I say, that is exactly why we need to exercise.”

Right on Carol.  I don’t have time.  My days are very long and I don’t get a lot of off-time.  Last year Danie and I went for a walk every night.  Sometimes the boys joined us.  It was great and I miss it.  But I have decided that I will start exercising today!

Volunteer for service to others.
Carol Blackwell wrote:  “I imagine you are now thinking I am really weird. How can we find time to work for others when we are struggling ourselves? For me, initially, I found it was easy to sit in the house and feel sorry for us. We didn’t sign up for this disease invading our lives, we had just had gotten to the point where we could be free from work constraints, etc. Etc. Unfortunately, sitting in the house feeling sorry for us didn’t help much. It wasn’t fun and served no purpose except to make me crabby and Bob depressed. No one wants to be around crabby people.”

Carol you are weird.  I don’t have time to sit and do anything.  I have a career, a household to run, two grandsons to fetch and carry, Vic to take care of…  For many years I was very involved in working with the less fortunate.  I however believe that in the Chinese Proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  Done and dusted.  One day I would love to do some community work again but for the time being I have to concentrate on my family and their survival.  Selfish – maybe…  For now that is the way it has to be.

Do things you enjoy—you deserve it. 
Carol Blackburn wrote:  “What do you find fun and what gives you pleasure? It is different for all of us. I enjoy Wii games—I love the Wii Fitness Plus activities. They are fun. “

Tick.  I love my Children and grandchildren.  I love the patter of little children’s feet in the passages of our home, the sound of children’s laughter, and their little arms around my neck.  I desperately miss my UK grandchildren.  I am permanently miserable when I think of them.  I miss them with every fiber of my body.  Sometimes I am so weepy that I cannot even Skype with them.

I am so happy that Lanie and Tom have moved to Johannesburg.  Now we see them and the girls on a regular basis.  We spend a lot of quality time together.

Yuri, our youngest grandson asks his Mom whether he can’t come visit his Oumie every day before school…

Liza (the youngest daughter) and her husband have finished sailing around the world.  I look forward to flying down to Cape Town to visit with them.  As soon as Vic is able to cope without me we will fly off…

Vic finds the noise a little distressing.  But the little ones know Aunty Vic is ill and are so good!

Carol is right.   I enjoy having the grandchildren around and I deserve to have my grandchildren around me.  Grandchildren are the joy of my life!  And I love playing Cityville on Facebook.

Consider meditation/yoga.
Carol wrote:  “Research has found that taking time to meditate and to engage in yoga is beneficial in reducing stress.”

Maybe one day when I have time… and the energy.

Don’t be a martyr.
Carol wrote:  “Martyrs may be noble, but they really aren’t much fun. You can’t do it all and you shouldn’t have to. Find help if you need it.  Are you in a support group? Check the Alzheimer’s Association link to fine one near you. Join it—it will help to find others who are going through what you are. “

“Is there someone who can come in for a few hours and let you take a break? Someone from church?  A friend? There are people who would love to help us, but we don’t ask. Ask. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones!”

My dearest friend, Gillian, wrote:”I would like to half your work and cares.  Put you in a bed for sleep therapy.  But I know you won’t trust a soul with your family”.  Few people know me as well as Gillian does.  I cannot leave Vic.  There is that beautiful John Lennon song “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”.  Vic ain’t heavy she is my baby.

I am trying to get Hospice involved.  Danie does help a lot and so do the boys.  Esther bathed Vic on Tuesday whilst I was at a meeting.  The church and I deserted one another some time back.  I don’t have many friends.

People have their own lives.  We live in a world where we don’t have time for other people’s problems.

Only a mother who has watched her child suffer will understand the despair of another mother.  Will understand how difficult it is to face every day, the depth of despair when you cradle your vomiting child in your arms….to say “Just one more hour baby” when she begs you for pain medication…

Smile or laugh each day.
Carol Blackwell wrote:  

We do.  Today I watched Rango with the boys.  It was so funny.

Cut yourself some slack.
The wise Carol Blackwell wrote:  “Everyone has ‘blue’ days. It’s OK to have a ‘pity party’ once in a while. It just doesn’t help to let those days happen too frequently. Also, don’t beat yourself up. We can’t always be calm, patient, understanding and saint-like. We are all just doing the best we can. Wallowing in guilt for occasional impatience won’t help either.”

This week I am truly wallowing in self-pity.  I have been guilty of impatience, I have lacked understanding.  I am petrified that Vic’s pain and suffering will continue for many more years.  It is strange that Vic is having a better week than she has had in three months.  As Esther said, her eyes are bright and she has mobilised pretty well.  She is less tired… What if this vicious cycle of pain and suffering continues?

Don’t lose hope.
Carol Blackwell wrote:  “There IS a cure for this awful disease. Out there—somewhere, someone is working on it. We just don’t know it yet. It will come. Keep the faith, baby!”

Just as there is no cure for Alzheimer’s at this stage there is no cure for Osteogenesis Imperfecta.  But there may just be a cure for the adhesions that I believe will ultimately cause a fatal obstruction.  Today I found a website where a doctor who claims great success with the treatment of frozen abdomens.  On the surface it seems very positive.  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/5/prweb9432209.htm

Anyone who has ever wrestled with God can understand the bargaining prayer. I have bargained with God all of Vic’s life.  If there is a cure I will do this or that…. For MANY years I have put the Church and God ahead of Vic and my family and yet all my love and commitment has resulted in further pain and suffering.  I know this paragraph will result in many emails or comments but I ask of you “Do not judge me if you have not walked ten miles in my moccasins!”

So for today and maybe the rest of the week I will hold onto my new hope.  “Hope removes the blinders of fear and despair. Hope opens up our minds and allows us to think positive under dire circumstances.”  Until I receive a reply to my enquiries…

To all my friends, cyber friends and family thank you for your support and love!  Yesterday I considered stopping the blog as it has opened up fears that I have suppressed for so many years. I however think it is something I must do – for myself.

Vic regrets not going to Italy 2.7.2012


Nothing in the world can ever prepare a parent for that moment  when the death sentence is pronounced over your beloved child.   I remember it as if it was yesterday.

Thank God Vic was in ICU and heavily sedated at the time.  Brendan told us in the passage of the Donald Gordon.  Colin and I went into shock.  We did not ask a single question.  We just looked at him … Mute for that dreadful, heart wrenching, moment.

Later that day Colin and I went to Brendan’s consulting rooms and spoke with him.  I had so many questions and he had so few answers.  He basically said that with the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Vic’s tissue had been affected very badly.  The intestines were very poor and she had very bad endometriosis and abdominal adhesion’s.  The adhesions were the biggest threat…it would almost certainly cause blockages of the gastrointestinal or urinary tracts.  There would come a stage when they could no longer operate or her little body could not take the strain anymore…

Strange Vic knew…when she eventually came round she knew that life as she knew it was over.

When I broke the news to her she was calm.  See, all her life she knew that eventually this day would come.

The doctor recommended that we get in touch with Hospice.  We did.  We had a family meeting.  Colin parents, Danie and I and Vic and Colin.  Colin went through an anger phase.  He felt let down… he thought they would grow old together.  They had two little boys aged 3 and 5…  So many challenges!  So many emotions.  So many medical bills!  In 2002 Vic’s medical costs were R3.2m.  ICU Pharmacy accounts ran into the hundreds of thousands of rands!

With terminal illness come HUGE medical bills.  As long as there is money the doctors will operate and treat, hospitals will admit and treat…   Colin and Vic eventually lost their home due to medical bills and Danie and I started taking additional bonds against our property.

When faced with the news that a family member has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, many people worry about what they should say and do. They want to help, but often don’t because they are afraid they will say or do something that will further upset the loved one.

Terminally ill persons have the same physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as everyone else. What they need most of all is to be cared about, not just cared for.

Someone said that they do not see Vic anymore as they had already said their goodbyes…they could not handle the emotional trauma of going through the goodbyes time and time again.  In their lives Vic no longer lives….

When the time comes I wish I could have a “by invite only” funeral for Vic.  If you cannot care about Vic whilst she is alive why on earth would you want to attend her funeral?  It has been 10 years and Image

Physical Care is certainly the most difficult part of the dying person’s journey as far as I am concerned.  The control of acute and chronic pain is the biggest challenge that we face.  Medication every four hours is a challenge.  The days are fine but the nights – well that’s a different matter.  It is easier to stay awake until 03:00 and then go to sleep.  Danie or the boys are up by 07:00 so I sleep in.  Getting enough pain medication prescribed is the BIGGEST challenge of all.  Vic’s medical is exhausted within the first two months of the year and thereafter is a nightmare!

The other issues that we have to contend with is constipation, nausea and weakness.   Often Vic is too weak to get out of bed on her own and needs help to get to the bathroom and back.  Showering and shaving her legs is a challenge.  Almost the biggest challenge is Vic’s hair!  Vic has a thick bunch of hair and she will not wash and towel dry it!  Her hair must be blow dried!

Vic went through many stages –  anger, sadness, anxiety, and fear.  It is strange that at first we all go into denial.  Even now I still do.  Vic said earlier this week:  ” Mommy, I am so happy I will be around for Jared’s confirmation.  I know I won’t be at Jon-Daniel’s confirmation”  I immediately retaliated and said “Of course you will be baby.  You just have to keep fighting”   Why did I feel compelled to make an empty promise?

Vic’s emotions are real.  Touch is comforting to her.  She loves being hugged, touched, kissed.  She appreciates the truth.

If it had not been for Vic’s positive attitude towards life and determination to bring up her boys herself, she would have died many years ago.

Vic is now tired and ready to die.

Vic regrets not going to Italy.  She desperately wants to go to Chaka’s Rock one more time.  She wants to see her boys grow up.  She wants to make a speech at their 21st birthdays!

As a family, there is nothing unsaid.  We love Vic and she knows it.  She will continue to live even after she stopped breathing.  We will honor her wishes for the boys and keep her memory alive.  Vic may stop breathing one day but she will always live in our hearts.

Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

Vic’s fears 2.7.2012


The boys visiting Vic in hospital 28.8.2012

Mommy, I’m not afraid of dying.  It is the pain that scares me…”

The four most common fears of the terminally ill are:

  1. That death will be painful.
  2. Loss of dignity and control.
  3. That loved ones will be damaged and unable to manage
  4. If children are involved that they will not be looked after properly.

Death will be painful

Vic the same physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as everyone else.  Her biggest fear is however the pain that will be involved in her inevitable death.  As distressing as the physical pain, Vic battles constipation, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, weakness, loss of dignity and loss of appetite.

The average physician and pharmacist’s concern is addiction!  So what?  Addiction at this stage of the game is the least of my problems.   I do however believe that Vic has become morphine resistant.  In hospital last week Pethidine and Perfalgan worked well.   This is one of the reasons why it would be great to have Hospice involved in her pain management.

The Pain Clinic is great but they see Vic every couple of months.  In the past 10 months I have collected her monthly morphine script on 7 occasions.  Thank God they have enough empathy for Vic and enough realisation of her health situation to give me the script. The problem is how much more than 400mg of MST (morphine) twice a day can they prescribe??  Imagine if I had to drag her to the pain Clinic every 28 days…

I honestly believe that family involvement is imperative with someone as ill as Vic as she or any other terminally ill person simply cannot manage these situations alone.  Family members closely monitor the effectiveness of pain management.  I take Vic’s vitals a minimum of 3 times a day.  Her blood pressure and heart rate are clear indicators of where her pain levels are at.   I know her body better than any other person, nurse or doctor… I cannot imagine a terminally ill person having to fight for pain medication.

Loss of dignity and control.

Vic desperately wants to participate in ordinary daily activities such as being able to eat with someone; to walk to the bathroom and use it in private, unaided; to talk with a friend; to watch a favourite TV show; to hold her children.

Imagine just for one minute your mother having to help you bath, apply deodorant, dress and undress…  Vic has to endure this indignity every day of her life.

Nights are especially poignant.  Sleep difficulties abound, not only because of physical pain but also because of fear of sleep, fear of not awakening out of that sleep.  One night spent with a dying person could teach all of us, in some measure, the depth of human loneliness, anguish and fear which our own dear ones experience in the brief span of life left to them.  Vic sleeps badly at night.  She wakes every two hours from pain and then she is too scared to go back to sleep.  She refuses to take a sleeping tablet.  At night Vic is at her most vulnerable…  I am so scared that she will fall at night whilst we are sleeping.

What if Vic is nauseous and chokes in her own vomit sleeping?

That loved ones will be damaged and unable to manage

Vic worries about the family’s ability to cope with her illness and eventual death.  When Jared whispered to her “Mommy, I want your face to be the first thing I see when I wake up from the operation” he validated her fears…

Vic often says “You know Mom I worry how Daddy is going to cope with my death…” or “Mommy, do you think the boys will cope without me?” or “Promise me you will go for counselling when it is over…”

No amount of reassurance will comfort her…Vic in time will have to let go.  She knows how deeply we love her and what void her passing will leave in all our lives.  If you lose a marriage partner it is possible to find another partner and experience love again but if you lose a child or parent…how do you replace a child or parent?

Vic is quite hard on the boys (for their own good I must add).  She always says “I am your Mother not your excuse”

If children are involved that they will not be looked after properly.

Vic believes that no-one can ever love the boys the way she does.  That is true.  I am not a particularly “oochy goochy” person.  At times I believe I failed Vic as she has an emotional neediness that scares me.  I attended 12 different schools in my life and maybe this is why I battle to form emotional attachments.  I don’t have many friends.  My family is everything to me.

Vic however often says that she is happy that she moved back home as she has seen how settled the boys are.  They are truly happy living with us.

Vic knows that I will care for the boys for the rest of my life.  We will guide them and provide for them in every which way.  We love the boys with all our hearts.

The question that remains is whether she trusts us enough to let go of this pain filled life where she has lost all control and dignity?  I pray that she will…

Posted in Uncategorized, Vicky Bruce

A Mother’s Love for her Sons


I have been researching the effect of a mother’s illness on her children.  The boys are two beautiful, well-adjusted, honest and compassionate young men.  Vic’s illness has certainly deprived them of a childhood in the true sense of the word and prematurely matured them into compassionate, caring, young men far too early in life.  At the tender age of thirteen Jared was cooking for the family…  This must certainly have an effect on how the boys perceive relationships with people.

Now according to my research the boys have become what is called ‘parentified’ children. These children solve the problem of sick and inadequate parenting by taking care of their parents. They in effect become parents to their parents, giving to the sick parent what they need from the parent. Now the roles are reversed. This seemingly creative solution is unfortunately too self-sacrificing to be healthy in the long run.

“‘Parentified’ sons who take care of their sick mothers in order to cope with their inability to parent, struggle to suppress obvious needs for love and feelings of loss. They learn to work hard taking care of the needs of others and living off of the scraps that come in the form of reinforcements for their competence and reliability. Their needs for love are overlooked and overshadowed by everyone else’s needs.”  The boys, especially Jared, falls into this category 100%.  When his little girlfriend was hit in the eye by a hockey ball, he immediately went into caregiving mode,  At the time I thought it to be extremely unhealthy that he already has this caregiving character trait.  He used to always make the tea and offer to do so much around the house and for his Mom.

I have put a stop to this.  I pray it is not too late for the boys to adjust to a “normal” household…

It is however important for them to realize that death is a part of the circle of life and that it is not something dark and something to be feared but rather, if happening in a timely fashion, something that one can embrace. The boys appreciate and respect Vic as their mother.   Vic has raised her sons to be respectful.

“The power of a mother’s strength comes from her heart, from her unabashed, unconditional, and unwavering love for her child. There is, as J.K. Rowling wrote in her Harry Potter books, a magic in that love. No matter what happens, a mother is always there for her child. A mother’s love is never to be questioned, and – though she may not know it at first – neither is her strength.”

Vic literally rose from her deathbed to be there for Jared with his operation on Wednesday.  When my Mom died I related her final moments to someone jumping from a diving board into a deep pool, reaching the bottom and kicking to rise to the surface of the water for one more breath… only to sink again.  This is what Vic does.

Before Jared was wheeled into theatre he whispered into his mom’s ear.  She took his hand and said “I promise”.

Vic, drip in hand, walking with Jared to theater!

The surgeon said the operation would last two hours.  Vic dutifully went back to bed and rested.  One hour and forty-five minutes later she was, IV drip in hand, standing outside the theatre door, waiting for her son.  I begged her to at least sit on the chair but she refused.  “Mommy, I promised Jared my face would be the first thing he sees when he comes out of theatre!”

It took a superhuman effort but Vic’s love for her son drove her to keep her word.  It is true that no mother wants her child to suffer in any way, but life is unfair like that. So, we as mother’s do what we can to provide support, comfort, and protection. And we grow strong enough to bear their hurt as well as our own.  As Vic did.  As I do. Motherhood cuts deeply, brings you to your knees most days; but it also brings a strength that may surprise you.

The vicious cycle of anger truly rose to the occasions on Wednesday.  I got angry with Vic because she was not putting her health first!  I KNOW I would have done the same but it was terrible seeing my child do herself harm to be a Mother.  I want to wrap her in cotton so she would be spared that extra day…

Yesterday Vic said she doubted whether she would see the end of the year.  She is however adamant to be at Jared’s confirmation…one more goal…

Go Girl!!!

Well, Vic is home.  I am so grateful.  She is conceding that she is too sore and ill to go to hospital…Saturday Jared comes home!!