Bedside Lessons – 13. Waddya waiting for?

Photo by Vadim Bogulov on Unsplash

He was well respected and had many visitors. He had sponsored most of his family to come over to New Zealand. He had enabled his brothers and parents to come over in order for them to have a better life. He was the reason that the children’s generation grew up speaking English and Chinese. He ran his businesses successfully with the help of his siblings.

It was unfortunate that he became unwell with cancer, but he was well-supported by his family. He had always been there for them so when he was unwell they were there for him. He was able to purchase the best care that money could buy, and his Private Oncologist tried everything that was available, but it did not work.

He went back to China in order to access other treatments but they did not work either and meant that he had to spend time away form his family which he did not like. Family was the most important thing to him in the world. That was the whole reason that he had worked so hard in order to make things better for his family, so that they could enjoy their time together.

He started to deteriorate more quickly and he was admitted for symptom control but ended up requiring end of life care. There was always a family member present. When he started having trouble swallowing, the family asked about tube feeding. We knew that back in China if you could afford to pay for it you could access almost any treatment you wanted. It was explained that we did not think that artificial feeding and hydration would be beneficial. He became sleepier and less clear in his thinking. Eventually he became comatose.

His family continued their vigil, even though he was unresponsive. They asked how long he had left, and we couldn’t give them a adequate answer. They rightfully pointed out to us that he had not had anything to eat or drink food about two weeks. How could he keep on staying alive? I had trouble explaining it with all of my medical training, our science could not explain what was going on.

Has he seen everyone he wanted to? “Yes,” the family said, “as far as we know.”
Into the second week of his coma state we continued to not receive any answers. Until one day he had the visit from the one that he had been waiting for all of this time. Physiologically he was unconscious, and should not have been able to understand what was going on around him.

The family were not being malicious but had been keeping the information away from their mother, his mother, that he was critically unwell and would die soon. They were trying to protect their elderly mother from the information that her oldest child was dying. They thought that she would not be able to handle the bad news, that her son was dying. She had managed to survive for her 94 years and would’ve had to have handled the deaths of many people that she had known, that despite her advanced age that this did not mean that she was not able to handle what life would continue to throw at her.

She came to see her eldest child, her first baby, to say good bye to him.

She held his hand and kissed his forehead, “goodbye my little precious, good bye.”

Later on that afternoon he died peacefully.

Lesson Learnt:

There is a lot that happens in life and death that cannot be explained by science alone, including the mystery of a mother’s love for her child.

1 thought on “Bedside Lessons – 13. Waddya waiting for?

  1. Capturing the ties that bind and support us to this life and the next…….A profound observation from the bedside……..Thankyou for capturing humanity so regularly and eloquently in your writing and in your care


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