There are times in the life of a terminally ill person that death is no longer the enemy but rather a friend. Vic too surpassed all anniversaries and eventually I though she was invincible. But with invincibility comes pain, indignity, despair, depression… Thinking of you Mike in your brave journey.
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.
The subcutaneous driver is down. By this morning it was obvious that Vic’s tissue was just not holding up.
On Friday morning I removed and repositioned the driver. Serum leaked out of the syringe hole for almost two days. The area is inflamed, hot to the touch, swollen and painful. Cellulitis has struck! Yesterday evening I repositioned the driver again and this afternoon I removed it. So I will now administer the 150mg of morphine and the 60 ml Stemitil IM. Vic’s derriere is black and blue and lumpy from the injections.
Where to from here? How are we going to control this poor child’s pain? I can only think that they will have to fit a central line… Will they do it? She will have to go into theatre for that! There is absolutely no way I would allow the procedure without sedation! Central lines are very susceptible to infection and sepsis.
Poor baby. She is so ill.
Today I said to my BFF, Gillian, that it is almost as if, now the decision has been made regarding “her” Hospice, she is at peace. I sat next to her and thought to myself “I wonder if she will make Christmas?” But then I thought to myself “Wait a minute…This is Vic…She bounces back!”
Tomorrow her doctor will come and see her, she will go onto a course of antibiotics and bounce back again. Then we will decide how to deal with her pain…Central venous catheter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_venous_catheter
|Central venous catheter|
In medicine, a central venous catheter (“central line”, “CVC”, “central venous line” or “central venous access catheter”) is acatheter placed into a large vein in the neck (internal jugular vein), chest (subclavian vein or axillary vein) or groin (femoral vein). It is used to administer medication or fluids, obtain blood tests (specifically the “mixed venous oxygen saturation”), and directly obtain cardiovascular measurements such as the central venous pressure.
There are several types of central venous catheters:
Non-tunneled vs. tunneled catheters
Non-tunneled catheters are fixed in place at the site of insertion, with the catheter and attachments protruding directly. Commonly used non-tunneled catheters include Quinton catheters.
Tunneled catheters are passed under the skin from the insertion site to a separate exit site, where the catheter and its attachments emerge from underneath the skin. The exit site is typically located in the chest, making the access ports less visible than if they were to directly protrude from the neck. Passing the catheter under the skin helps to prevent infection and provides stability. Commonly used tunneled catheters include Hickman catheters and Groshong catheters.
A port is similar to a tunneled catheter but is left entirely under the skin. Medicines are injected through the skin into the catheter. Some implanted ports contain a small reservoir that can be refilled in the same way. After being filled, the reservoir slowly releases the medicine into the bloodstream. An implanted port is less obvious than a tunneled catheter and requires very little daily care. It has less impact on a person’s activities than a PICC line or a tunneled catheter. Surgically implanted infusion ports are placed below the clavicle (infraclavicular fossa), with the catheter threaded into the right atrium through large vein. Once implanted, the port is accessed via non-coring “Huber” needles inserted through the skin. The health care provider may need to use topical anesthetic prior to accessing port. Ports can be used for medications, chemotherapy, TPN, and blood. As compared to CVC or PICC catheters, ports are easy to maintain for home-based therapy.
Ports are typically used on patients requiring only occasional venous access over a long duration course of therapy. Since the port must be accessed using a needle, if venous access is required on a frequent basis a catheter having external access is more commonly used.
A peripherally inserted central catheter, or PICC line (pronounced “pick”), is a central venous catheter inserted into a vein in the arm rather than a vein in the neck or chest.
Depending on its use, the catheter is monoluminal, biluminal or triluminal, dependent on the actual number of lumens (1, 2 and 3 respectively). Some catheters have 4 or 5 lumens, depending on the reason for their use.
The catheter is usually held in place by an adhesive dressing, suture, or staple which is covered by an occlusive dressing. Regular flushing with saline or a heparin-containing solution keeps the line patent and prevents thrombosis. Certain lines are impregnated with antibiotics, silver-containing substances (specifically silver sulfadiazine) and/or chlorhexidine to reduce infection risk.
Specific types of long-term central lines are the Hickman catheters, which require clamps to make sure the valve is closed, and Groshong catheters, which have a valve that opens as fluid is withdrawn or infused and remains closed when not in use. Hickman lines also have a “cuff” under the skin, to prevent bacterial migration and to cause tissue ingrowth into the device for long term securement.
Indications and uses
Indications for the use of central lines include:
- Monitoring of the central venous pressure (CVP) in acutely ill patients to quantify fluid balance
- Long-term Intravenous antibiotics
- Long-term Parenteral nutrition especially in chronically ill patients
- Long-term pain medications
- Drugs that are prone to cause phlebitis in peripheral veins (caustic), such as:
- Peripheral blood stem cell collections
- Frequent blood draws
- Frequent or persistent requirement for intravenous access
- Need for intravenous therapy when peripheral venous access is impossible
Central venous catheters usually remain in place for a longer period of time than other venous access devices, especially when the reason for their use is longstanding (such as total parenteral nutrition in a chronically ill patient). For such indications, a Hickman line, a PICC line or a portacath may be considered because of their smaller infection risk. Sterile technique is highly important here, as a line may serve as a porte d’entrée (place of entry) for pathogenic organisms, and the line itself may become infected with organisms such as Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative Staphylococci.
The skin is cleaned, and local anesthetic applied if required. The location of the vein is then identified by landmarks or with the use of a small ultrasound device. A hollow needle is advanced through the skin until blood is aspirated; the color of the blood and the rate of its flow help distinguish it from arterial blood (suggesting that an artery has been accidentally punctured), although this method is inaccurate. Ultrasound probably now represents the gold standard for central venous access and skills, within North American and Europe, with landmark techniques are diminishing.
The line is then inserted using the Seldinger technique: a blunt guidewire is passed through the needle, then the needle is removed. A dilating device may be passed over the guidewire to slightly enlarge the tract. Finally, the central line itself is then passed over the guidewire, which is then removed. All the lumens of the line are aspirated (to ensure that they are all positioned inside the vein) and flushed. A chest X-ray is typically performed afterwards to confirm that the line is positioned inside the superior vena cava and, in the case of insertion through the subclavian vein, that no pneumothorax was caused as a side effect. Vascular positioning systems can also be used to verify tip placement during insertion without the need to a chest X-ray, but this technique is not yet a standard of practice.
Central line insertion may cause a number of complications. The benefit expected from their use therefore needs to outweigh the risk of those complications.
Pneumothorax (for central lines placed in the chest); the incidence is thought to be higher with subclavian vein catheterization. In catheterization of the internal jugular vein, the risk of pneumothorax can be minimized by the use of ultrasound guidance. For experienced clinicians, theincidence of pneumothorax is about 1.5-3.1%. Some official bodies, e.g. the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (UK), recommend the routine use of ultrasonography to minimize complications.
Central-Line Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSIs)
All catheters can introduce bacteria into the bloodstream, but CVCs are known for occasionally causing Staphylococcus aureus andStaphylococcus epidermidis sepsis. The problem of central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) has gained increasing attention in recent years. They cause a great deal of morbidity and deaths, and increase health care costs. Historically, a small number of CVC infections were considered an acceptable risk of placing central lines. However, the seminal work by Dr. Peter Pronovost at Johns Hopkins Hospital turned that perspective on its head. Additionally, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has done a tremendous amount of work in improving hospitals’ focus on central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI), and is working to decrease the incidence of this particular complication among US hospitals.
The 13 Elements of Performance (EPs):
- EP 1 & 2 deal with educating staff and patients about Central Vascular Catheters and their potential complications
- EP 3 specifically directs facilities to implement policies and practices to reduce CLABSI
- EP 4 & 5 are about how to perform surveillance for Central-Line Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSIs)
- EP 6-13:
– Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) bundle
- 1. Hand Hygiene
- 2. Full body drape
- 3. Chlorhexidine gluconate skin anti-septic
- 4. Selection of Optimal site for Central venus Catheter (CVC)
- 5. Daily review of ongoing need for CVC
– Disinfection of intravenous access ports before use
National Patient Safety Goals require documentation of a checklist for CVC insertion and Disinfection of intravenous (IV) access ports before use (scrub the hub). Some literature has suggested the use of a safer vascular access route – such as intraosseous (IO) vascular access – when central lines are not absolutely necessary (such as when central lines are being placed solely for vascular access). Infection risks were initially thought to be less in jugular lines, but this only seems to be the case if the patient is obese.
If a patient with a central line develops signs of infection, blood cultures are taken from both the catheter and from a vein elsewhere in the body. If the culture from the central line grows bacteria much earlier (>2 hours) than the other site, the line is the likely source of the infection. Quantitative blood culture is even more accurate, but this is not widely available.
Generally, antibiotics are used, and occasionally the catheter will have to be removed. In the case of bacteremia from Staphylococcus aureus, removing the catheter without administering antibiotics is not adequate as 38% of such patients may still develop endocarditis.
In a clinical practice guideline, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine culturing of central venous lines upon their removal.The guideline makes a number of further recommendations to prevent line infections.
To prevent infection, stringent cleaning of the catheter insertion site is advised. Povidone-iodine solution is often used for such cleaning, but chlorhexidine appears to be twice as effective as iodine. Routine replacement of lines makes no difference in preventing infection.
Rarely, small amounts of air are sucked into the vein as a result of the negative Intra-thoracic pressure and insertion technique. Valved insertion devices can reduce this risk. If these air bubbles obstruct blood vessels, this is known as an air embolism.
The downward pain spiral has already begun. Vic is quite swollen and had a bad day. This afternoon late she perked up and has only had one vomiting spell tonight.
As Sr Siza was examining her this afternoon and taking her vitals I remarked on the swelling. “It’s the organs shutting down” she whispered….
“I am scared Siza. I administer such massive dosages of medication to Vic… What if I kill her?” I asked over a cup of tea.
“Don’t worry my love. You won’t. There is no upper limit to the amount of morphine that Vicky can go on… As long as we titrate the dosages she will be fine.”
Proponents of assisted suicide often argue that when a doctor helps a patient who wants to die, it is no more ethically troubling than when a doctor kills a patient slowly with morphine, often without the patient’s knowledge or consent, a medical practice these proponents say is increasingly common.
So why forbid doctors to prescribe lethal pills that could allow patients to control how and when they die? There is no question that doctors use morphine this way. “It happens all the time,” said Dr. John M. Luce, a professor of medicine and anesthesiology at the University of California in San Francisco. And there is no question that most doctors think that morphine can hasten a patient’s death by depressing respiration. But Luce and others are asking whether morphine and similar drugs really speed death.
Experts in palliative care say the only available evidence indicates that morphine is not having this effect. Dr. Balfour Mount, a cancer specialist who directs the division of palliative care at McGill University in Montreal, firmly states that it is “a common misunderstanding that patients die because of high doses of morphine needed to control pain.”
No one denies that an overdose of morphine can be lethal. It kills by stopping breathing. But, said Dr. Joanne Lynn, director of the Center to Improve Care of the Dying at George Washington University School of Medicine, something peculiar happens when doctors gradually increase a patient’s dose of morphine. The patients, she said, become more tolerant of the drug’s effect on respiration than they do of its effect on pain. The result, Dr. Lynn said, is that as patients’ pain gets worse, they require more and more morphine to control it. But even though they end up taking doses of the drug that would quickly kill a person who has not been taking morphine, the drug has little effect on these patients’ breathing.
Dr. Kathleen Foley, who is co-chief of the pain and palliative care service at Memorial SloanKettering Cancer Center in New York, said that she routinely saw patients taking breathtakingly high doses of morphine yet breathing well. “They’re taking 1,000 milligrams of morphine a day, or 2,000 milligrams a day, and walking around,” she said.
The standard daily dose used to quell the pain of cancer patients, she added, is 200 to 400 milligrams. Dr. Lynn said she sometimes gave such high doses of morphine or similar drugs that she frightened herself. She remembers one man who had a tumor on his neck as big as his head. To relieve his pain, she ended up giving him 200 milligrams of a morphinelike drug, hydromorphone, each hour, 200 times the dose that would put a person with no tolerance to the drug into a deep sleep. “Even I was scared,” Dr. Lynn said, but she found that if she lowered the dose to even 170 milligrams of the drug per hour, the man was in excruciating pain. So to protect herself in case she was ever questioned by a district attorney, she said, she videotaped the man playing with his grandson while he was on the drug.
On rare occasions, Dr. Lynn said, she became worried when she escalated a morphine dose and noticed that the patient had started to struggle to breathe. Since she did not intend to kill the patient, she said, she administered an antidote. But invariably, she said, she found that the drug was not causing the patient’s sudden respiratory problem.
One man, for example, was having trouble breathing because he had bled from a tumor in his brain, and an elderly woman had just had a stroke. “In every single case, there was another etiology,” Dr. Lynn said. “Joanne’s experience is emblematic,” said Dr. Russell K. Portenoy, the other cochief of the pain and palliative care service at Memorial SloanKettering Cancer Center.
He said he was virtually certain that if doctors ever gave antidotes to morphine on a routine basis when dying patients started laboring to breathe, they would find that Dr. Lynn’s experience was the rule. Patients generally die from their diseases, not from morphine, Dr. Portenoy said.
The actual data on how often morphine and other opiates that are used for pain relief cause death are elusive. But Dr. Foley and others cite three studies that indirectly support the notion that if morphine causes death, it does so very infrequently. One study, by Dr. Frank K. Brescia of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx and his colleagues, examined pain, opiate use and survival among 1,103 cancer patients at that hospital, which is for the terminally ill. The patients had cancer that was “very far advanced,” said Dr. Portenoy, an author of the paper. But to his surprise, he said, the investigators found no relationship between the dose of opiates a patient received and the time it took to die. Those receiving stunningly high doses died no sooner than those taking much lower doses.
Another study, by Dr. Luce and his colleagues in San Francisco, looked at 44 patients in intensive care units at two hospitals who were so ill that their doctors and families decided to withdraw life support. Three quarters of the patients were taking narcotics, and after the decision was made to let them die, the doctors increased their narcotics dose. Those who were not receiving opiates were in comas or so severely brain damaged that they did not feel pain. The researchers asked the patients’ doctors to tell them, anonymously, why they had given narcotics to the patients and why they had increased the doses. Thirty nine (39%) percent of the doctors confided that, in addition to relieving pain, they were hoping to hasten the patients’ deaths. But that did not seem to happen.
The patients who received narcotics survived an average of 3 1/2 hours after the decision had been made to let them die. Those who did not receive narcotics lived an average of 1 1/2 hours. Of course, Dr. Luce said, the study was not definitive because the patients who did not receive drugs may have been sicker and more likely to die very quickly. Nonetheless, he said, the investigators certainly failed to show that narcotics speeded death.
Dr. Declan Walsh, the director of the Center for Palliative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, said it had been 15 years since he first questioned the assumption that morphine used for pain control killed patients by depressing their respiration. He was working in England at the time, and many doctors there were afraid to prescribe morphine or similar drugs for cancer patients, Walsh said, because “they were afraid they would kill the patients.”
So Walsh looked at carbon dioxide levels in the blood of cancer patients on high doses of morphine to control their pain. If their breathing was suppressed, their carbon dioxide levels should have been high. But they were not. Nonetheless, Walsh said, the idea that morphine used for pain relief depresses respiration is widely believed by doctors and nurses because it is “drummed into them in medical school.” So, said Dr. Susan Block, a psychiatrist in the hematology and oncology division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, it is not surprising that many doctors try to use morphine to speed dying. “There is more and more evidence most of it unpublished, but it’s coming, I’ve seen it that physicians, in addition to wanting to ease patients’ discomfort, also want to hasten death,” Dr. Block said. “Everyone is feeling guilty.”
Source: NY TIMES July 23, 1997 http://www.chninternational.com/Opiods%20for%20pain%20do%20not%20kill.htm
No more pain angel.
Yesterday I posted on “time”. Today after the visit from the Hospice sister I actually realized that just maybe Vic has entered the first stages of dying
Some of the stages of dying start to be discernible a few months before death occurs.
Vic has become less active; she rests more, sleeps more and has withdrawn into her own inner realm.
Vic is reliving memories and spends a lot of her awake time talking to the boys about her childhood, her “illustrious” school career and their childhoods. This year she relived every minute of her father’s final journey… Vic has started living in the past.
I read that it is the terminally ill’s way of taking stock of their lives and making their peace with it.
Vic no longer eats big meals and I seldom hear her say “I am ravenous”. Due to the 81 abdominal surgeries and multiple bouts of septicemia Vic’s absorption is very poor. (Poor absorption = BIG appetite!) Vic used to have the appetite of a horse – always nibbling and scrounging for food. Now it is sheer discipline that keeps her eating. She knows she cannot have medication without eating first. Strange thing is that she is not really losing weight. Hospice says it is due to the high levels of cortisone she takes… I have been told by Hospice not to worry about her loss of appetite. Her body does not need a lot of fuel (food) anymore because it is not burning a lot of energy anymore….
The effect of the reduced food and liquid intake is that the body starts producing chemicals that create a feeling of mild euphoria. Our bodies actually start relaxing into this stage of dying.
Vic still drinks a fair amount of coffee. She used to drink it warm but now she dozes off before she has finished her cup of coffee. She will wake up and take a sip of cold coffee… A cup of coffee now lasts a long time.
Vic spends the majority of the day in bed, gently dozing…. It is not a deep sleep. It is as if her little body is preparing to hibernate….preparing for what lies beyond death whether it is Heaven, Nirvana or the Other Side….
Reduced appetite and increased sleep is called “Signposts for dying”.
A couple of weeks ago Vic was very emotional. She would tear up without any reason. This stage has passed. It is as if her tears cleansed her soul.
Vic is battling with loneliness. She hates being alone. If she could she would have one of us around her all the time. She often complains that we do not spend time with her. We do spend a lot of time with her. She just dozes off and then we leave to carry on with our lives… The boys are writing exams – they have to study; I have to work…. Dying is a lonely journey
Vic is not in good shape at all. She is suffering severe cramping and nausea that is not responding to any of the medication. The Hospice Sister called the doctor this afternoon and asked her to see Vic in the morning. She also suggested that Vic be admitted to Hospice In-Patient’s. Vic and I firmly declined…
It is obvious that Vic has one or other infection. I think it is the abdominal sepsis. She seems flushed and feels hot and cold. The thermometer does not reflect her running a fever. This is obviously something as Ceza mentioned it to the doctor. She explained that this happens when the auto-immune system is compromised. I have tried to Google it but without too much success. I will ask the doctor tomorrow morning.
Vic is in terrible pain tonight. I have already given her double her normal evening morphine injections; double the quantity of morphine syrup; I have changed her Durogesic patches…. I lay behind her back and gently held her until her breathing became deep and even. She whimpered in her drug-induced sleep….
I know the shutting down process has started. Not because Hospice told me but because Vic told me.
Will my poor baby’s hell ever end? If there is a lesson to be learnt PLEASE God show me what it is so I can learn it!! This has come to an end!
Today I read a lovely blog that Andrew had reblogged. http://lymphomajourney.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/living-with-cancer-its-about-time-nytimes-com/
Several studies have suggested that when dealing with terminal illnesses, especially cancer, doctors are usually incorrect in their prognosis, nearly always tending to believe that their patients will live longer than they actually do.
In one study involving patients in Chicago hospice programs, doctors got the prognosis right only about 20 % of the time, and 63% of the time overestimated their patients’ survival.
Interestingly, the longer the duration of the doctor-patient relationship, the less accurate was the prognosis. “Disinterested doctors . . . may give more accurate prognoses,” the authors wrote, “perhaps because they have less personal investment in the outcome.” http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/04/doctors-incorrect-prognosis-terminal-illness.html
Eight years ago we were told that Vic’s life was “compromised” and that she would die within the next 5 years. Eight years later Vic is still alive. Maybe Vic’s doctor is too close to Vic….
Eleven years ago Vic had blotched back surgery setting her off on a journey filled with pain, 81 abdominal surgeries, years in hospital and millions of rands worth of medical expenses.
Vic realized that her life had been compromised and started saying “If only I can see Jared go to school…” I remember her joy the first day Jared went to school. Then she said “If only I can live to see Jon-Daniel go to school…” I remember how desperately ill she was the day Jon-Daniels started school….
Now both her boys are in High School. I never hear Vic saying “I wish” anymore.
Tonight we discussed going to the coast for a week in January. Vic just shook her head sadly and said “It is too far Mommy. Even if I fly down I think it will be too much for me…”
It is all about time.
Time grinds to a halt when Vic needs her 4 hourly pain medication and there is an hour to go… when she screams from pain and her blood pressure is too low for more pain medication to be administered…
The longest nights are the nights before surgery and after surgery. The longest passage is the passage outside the operating theater and ICU.
Whilst I was in the UK Vic did well. She fired her nurse and administered her own injections into her legs! I have been home for six days and Vic is really ill. I expected her to have the “up-time” whilst I was gone. I knew that she would use every ounce of her residual strength to be “good” while I was gone. Vic bounced around and amazed everyone who came into contact with her. Cr Ceza, her Hospice sister, however spoke to her in the presence of Danie and Esther and told her that the ONLY reason she was feeling great was because her pain control was optimal. Her body would however betray her. She said that Vic’s body has started shutting down….slowly but surely. The process is inevitable… I believe that Hospice is wrong. They have to be wrong.
Tonight I am sitting here just wondering where time has gone.
The Blog I read today articulated my thoughts and emotions so accurately!
“In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “How did it get so late so soon?” Without much of a future, surely time will again change. A lot can happen in a year — think of the helpless infant becoming a walking, talking toddler in 9 or 10 months. Time moves more slowly for small children, since a year of a 2-year-old’s life is 50 percent of that life. A terminal diagnosis may also slow down time. The next year might be 100 percent of what’s left of my existence.”
Sometimes the time left seems too long; too many catastrophes could injure those I love. Sometimes it seems too short; there are so many suspenseful stories unfolding around me, and I want to see how they will turn out. Those for whom time’s chariot is indeed winged often attest to a heightened appreciation of their fast-fading prospects. And then there is always the dream of borrowed time, that numinous period beyond the predicted end, like a stay of execution, which must be fraught with its own blessings and curses. . http://lymphomajourney.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/living-with-cancer-its-about-time-nytimes-com/
We have already had so many “extra” years. But the fact remains that Vic is ill. Today she is more ill than yesterday or even last week or last month. It is not an UTI causing the pain and fever. Her pain control is good enough to mask symptoms. Waves of severe nausea and cramping remain…
I don’t even want to consider the possibility that the pain is caused by Vic’s organs slowly starting to shut down….. One organ after another…. I have read that it feels “uncomfortable”. It is called terminal agitation.
Only time will tell…. Time is all we have….
How did it get late so soon?
https://tersiaburger.com/2012/07/02/vic-regrets-not-going-to-italy/ https://tersiaburger.com/2012/07/20/thank-you-god-20-7-2012/ https://tersiaburger.com/2012/08/05/what-can-we-hope-for-when-there-is-no-hope/
Pain at the end of life is inescapably interwoven with, and often amplified by, multiple levels of emotional and spiritual angst as the inevitability of death looms. Fear, a potent pain magnifier, is the dominant emotion – fear of pain, fear of death, fear of the unknown…..
It is a fact that people at the end of life fear pain even more than they fear death. Sadly, for many dying patients, pain seems like the ultimate torment, and death is its cure. It does not have to be this way, and if you or a loved one is facing death, you have every right to ask that your final days not be consumed by pain.
It is estimated that a maximum of 5% of people who die from terminal illness in South Africa have access to adequate palliative care. Even in hospitals, treatment is far from ideal, because doctors and nurses have seldom had training in palliative care and have little idea of what to do with the patients.
Dying patients are often prey to a host of anxieties about the state of their affairs, about the fate of those who will grieve their loss, and about how their behaviour will be seen, and possibly judged, during their final hours. And of course, there are often deep spiritual and religious questions to address. Did my life have meaning? Will my soul survive my body? Am I at peace with myself, my family, and my friends?
Not least of all these concerns, people at the end of life worry about how their pain will be managed. Will they be under medicated and have to ask, or even beg for relief? Will they be over-medicated and lose consciousness during their precious waning days and hours?
They may even be afraid to complain. If they do, will they be seen as whiners or quitters? If they ask for narcotics, will they be judged by their doctors as drug seeking, drug addicts or even cowardly? Or will their medical care be relegated to comfort measures only, while all efforts to cure their illness are suspended?
I read the post of an amazing woman who is suffering from congenital heart failure. She is in so much pain. I cried when I read her post. http://thedrsays.org/2012/11/08/ She replied to a question whether better pain control was possible….. “there is nothing that will let me participate in life and have relief. so at this point i am going for being lucid over some so-so pain relief. who knows how long before i cave. when the time comes i plan to take advantage of whatever is available to me. just my personal choice right now.”
Vic has received a new lease on life. Vic has 100% better quality of life since her pain is under control. We discovered, through the expertise of a wonderful palliative care team that Vic’s body did not absorb monstrous quantities of morphine! Now she is not only functioning, she is LIVING! Vic is more lucid than she was before.
The pain was killing Vic… Palliative care has given her life.
Being prepared to die is one of the greatest secrets of living. George Lincoln Rockwell