Guest Post – Naomi’s Notes – Offering

It was a week before Christmas, a special birthday celebration and instead of just a few candles we offered 1000 butterlamps.  These were lit before the start of the ceremony which concluded with the traditional Happy Birthday song for Rinpoche.  

After our shared lunch I walked slowly up the stairs to the Temple.  From the bottom of the stairs in the distance I saw a young woman  with her two children aged 6 and 8. I greeted her on arrival and she asked if she could light some butter  lamps.  She looked close to tears, and I asked her, “What’s the matter?”

“I need some help, my son died last week and I need some kind of spiritual help that’s why I came here. Is there a Lama here? I need to talk to someone.” Then the floodgate of tears was unleashed.  I put my arm around her and let her cry. Her two young children looked worried. I had some home baking upstairs and asked them to bring it down for a cup of tea. 

When we were alone she shared  that her 23 year old son had committed suicide.  His siblings were told their brother had died.  They were too young to understand and she didn’t want to burden them with it. As the children came bounding down the stairs I offered them something to eat and suggested they play outside on the grass where they could still see us whilst I talked with mum.   They appeared to be relieved to have  another adult to talk to their mum. 

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I think therefore I am? – SEP

Photo by NASA on Unsplash


Ford Prefect says, “An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem. That’s what SEP means. Somebody Else’s Problem. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot.”

The Somebody Else’s Problem field… relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.

From Douglas Adams’ Life, The Universe and Everything 1982

The SEP field generator is an incredible thing, where-ever you shine the beam, like an amazing piece of magic, suddenly the problem disappears and becomes someone else’s problem.

Sound familiar when you think of palliative care patients and their problems?

Other specialities do this to us all of the time, they leave work unfinished or not even attempted. They somehow know that us good-natured folks will make sure that things are sorted.

This isn’t really fair to us, but especially unfair to the patient. Where is the patient in all of this? Certainly not in the centre of attention.

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Guest Post – Naomi’s Notes – Cushion

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

They met at a seven-year meditation/philosophy course, which required participants to travel to India each year for the 1st week in April for instruction. It was taught by  H E Tai Situ Rinpoche one of the great Meditation Masters.

The seating was cushioning on the floor, he sat in front of her.  He was from Germany with limited English and she was from New Zealand (NZ) with limited German but they were able to communicate.   They formed a group with the Spanish man that sat next to him and the Taiwanese woman that sat next to her.  The group exchanged email addresses and from time to time corresponded. When in India they would all have breakfast together.

After year three of the course, he wrote to say he had to drop out of the course as his 88-year-old mother was sick and he needed to care for her.  He wrote about his newly acquired knowledge in gynaecology, breast cancer, podiatry, and dentistry gained from having accompanied his mother to all of her appointments.

She wrote back and gave him some moral support.   She also sent a gift from the NZ sheep, woollen socks for both his mother and him. 

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I think therefore I am? – Yearning for connection

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What this palliative care doctor thinks:

It’s not just about language, that’s why Google translate can’t replace human interpreters at the moment. It might be able to translate the words literally from one language to another but it doesn’t yet have the cultural context of where the words came from. The history of the language has not been programmed into it. Take English for example a lot of the words we use are derived from French and other Latin-based languages. You don’t ask for sheep meat, you ask for mutton from the French mouton. Similarly beef, not cow meat, from the French boeuf. A translator program is not the same as an interpreter program. Google Interpret would have to be much more sophisticated and would need cultural programming as well as linguistic programming.

A person may be speaking Chinese, but they are also living Chinese. The food that they eat, the clothes that they wear. Rituals that they follow to celebrate life, and how they deal with death and dying are the missing parts of a person’s identity that cannot be easily translated.
The most important tool I have as a palliative care doctor is my ability to communicate. I make a point of greeting my patients in their native language as much as possible. My accented version of their language is my attempt at providing them with a hint of familiarity. In the area I work in people come from all over the world, from lots of different cultures, with over 200 different languages spoken in our area. I certainly do not know all the greetings that are available but a quick Google search can provide me with at least a few words of greeting. A little demonstration of respect that I have made the effort to try to connect with another human being. It may have taken me ten seconds to type in my query but it can often bring a smile to a weary sufferer, whose illness has taken over their body. Someone for whom English may be a second or third language. A little snippet of home, can make a real difference.

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Guest Post – Naomi’s Notes – Precious

Part 1

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

At school two little six year olds had an argument.  They were both very upset when I called them over to talk to me.

I asked the first one what the problem was.

Pointing at the other girl with a quivering finger she said, amongst sobs, “she called me a F F F FAT BANANA. Why are you laughing?”

“Well,” I said, “are you a banana?”

“No.”

“Are you fat?”

“No.”

“Is it true?”

“No?”

Softly I said to her, “so darling if it were true it would be serious, but it’s not true so it’s funny isn’t it?”

I asked the other girl, “why did you say that?”

“I wanted her to be my friend but she didn’t want to,  so I called her a FAT BANANA…  Naomi,  I really love bananas.”

I smiled and said to her, “darling if you want someone to be your friend, that’s not the way to do it. First you  have to  help them if they need help, be kind to them and laugh at their jokes.   Then they will want to be your friend because they can see that you are a kind and caring  person.” 

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Palace of Care – What’s in a name?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

She was transferred from hospital into hospice at the end of her life and only had days left to live. End-stage cancer had taken complete control of her body. We were handed over that it was important that we respect her wishes especially when it came to calling her by her proper name. It was a name that she had to fight for, that she had won for herself, but at great cost.

Not everyone understood her wishes. When her relatives came to see her they brought old family photos, and called her by a different name. She looked different in the photos, much younger, and dressed in different clothes. We were all young once. She was becoming less responsive as each day passed and her family talked about someone who sounded different to the patient that we had only a short time to get to know.

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Palliverse’s Greatest Hits from Oct 2014 – #getjakbak revisited – Part 2

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

At 3pm on Friday afternoon, 18 hours before our departure time, I received bad news. The promised community raised funds had not come through. Was the trip to be cancelled because of a deficit of $3320?

I finished the phone call and took a quick walk around our inpatient unit, and talked to some of the staff about the funding problem. One of the nurses asked me what I was going to do. I really had no idea but for some unknown reason I replied to her, “Magic.”

I had 120 minutes to come up with $3320, at a rate of $27.67/min. What to do? What could I do? What was on the line was a dying man’s wish to return home to see his family. This was his final chance to try to get home, he had been trying to get home ever since he had arrived here months ago.

Who could help? Maybe a virtually community of practice? I went online and decided to launch my first ever crowd-funding campaign, asking people to pledge money towards the trip deficit. The original post can be read here. I emailed a link to it to everyone that I knew.

17 minutes later the first pledge came in, then another, then another. Drip by drip the pledges came in. $20, $40, $100, $200. Palliative Care people were keen to help including healthcare staff, administration staff. People from around New Zealand and Australia came to our aid. One of the other patients on the ward caught wind of what was happening and pledged $200 to help his fellow patient get home.

With only five minutes to spare we reached our goal, the trip was going to happen! I went to see our patient and his wife and told them that I would be seeing them early tomorrow morning for our trip back to the Islands.

Island-Man: Far From Home

Bedside Lessons – 7. DNA

Labels are easily applied to people but are not always appropriate. DNA – Did not attend is one of the commonest labels that can be given to patients and often no attempt to check their actual circumstances is actually made. DNA is a label that sticks to someone and can bias clinicians against patients without allowing them a chance to explain themselves.

Here’s a story about a patient that I met on a home visit many years ago which changed my thinking about the DNA label and labeling in general.

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I think therefore I am ? – A special Totara Hospice South Auckland event this Friday.

07/12/17 – Update – Attendees please note that tomorrow morning in Auckland there will be a Railway Workers Strike meaning that road traffic will likely be much heavier than usual. We have asked attendees to arrive at 8.45am for a 9am start, please factor in the strike traffic delay when planning your travel for tomorrow morning. If you arrive early you can visit our on-site Cafe Totara for a fresh Barista-made coffee, with a range of fresh food available as well, all prepared on-site. An email update will be sent to attendees who have already registered.

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Hi everyone,

Can healing occur at the end of life?

To whom does compassion need to extend to at the end of life?

These are the type of questions that will be explored in Totara Hospice South Auckland’s education centre this Friday morning, 08 December 2017 9am to 12pm.

We are privileged to be hosting two international speakers.

Dr Rob Rutledge will be joined by a special guest.

We will be honoured to also have in attendance, Tibetan Buddhist Monk, Za Choeje Rinpoche.

zach

Please join us for a very special interactive workshop in which we will attempt to challenge your thinking and change the stasis quo.

RSVP details are contained in the below pdf.

Morning tea refreshments will be provided.

Please pass on this invitation to anyone in your networks who might be interested in attending.

Cheers,

James

Invitation Compassion and Healing Seminar.pdf

Palace of Care – Mate

I thought to myself while I was talking to him today, I’m really going to miss this guy, who I’ve been calling mate.

Some people will really pull on your heart-strings. Mate is one of those people. He’s really unwell, and his time is very limited, but he’s still charming the ‘socks off’ of all of the ladies. He’s always very polite, and well-mannered. I’ve been looking after him for the past week or so, and he has been deteriorating on an almost daily basis. He never complains and has never liked to cause a fuss. He’s a shy man, who doesn’t want to be a nuisance, I’ve had to almost beg him to ask for pain relief when he needs it. He has been through an awful lot of pain. It has improved since he came under our care, but it is still there. He has never complained, either before or after his illness was discovered.
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