Palace of Care – It’s hard enough just breathing

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

“The last thing I remember was waking up early to watch the Rugby Sevens, after that I woke up in hospital,” was what he wrote using a green erasable marker pen. In between sentences he would wipe his mouth with tissue paper. A combination of stroke loss of function and rapidly growing mouth cancer led to him not being able to close his mouth fully. Saliva would pool in the lower left corner of the mouth before gravity would send a small waterfall running down his jawline. He was quite conscious of this and had already tucked three extra tissues under his chin to catch the drool.

The next sentence he wrote said, “my sister didn’t know that I did not want to be resuscitated if I became unwell again.”

“Do you mean you wish they hadn’t treated you the last time you were in hospital?”


“Since leaving hospital you’ve stopped most of your medications. If you were to get another pneumonia would you want to be treated?”

Head shake.

“If your heart or lungs were to stop working, would you want us to try to start them again?”

Crosses his hands in front of his face, and shakes his head with vigour.

“You’ve had enough haven’t you.”

Nods his head three times.

“There’s too much going on. Your lungs aren’t working, your heart isn’t working, and you’ve had a bad stroke. Then you got a nasty mouth cancer on top of all that. Isn’t that a bit greedy of you?

Shrugs shoulders while smiling with the right side of his mouth.

“I know you are in a lot of pain from cancer and you’ve had bad nausea. Are you still wanting to have the tube feeds?”

He wrote, “It’s hard enough just breathing.”

“You don’t have to have anything that you don’t want to. Your body is so unwell that it can’t process the food, that’s why you’ve been vomiting and have had loose poos. You are struggling. I’d like to try to calm down your breathing with some medication.”

Thumbs up.

“Your family are coming to see you soon?”

Nod and half-smile.

“I’d like to start some medications for you through a syringe driver.
I’d like to calm down your symptoms over the next couple of days. Please let us know if there is anything you need. We’re going to get you through this.”

“Thank you.”

“Thank you for building our hospice.”

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