Palliverse’s Greatest Hits from Oct 2014 – #getjakbak revisited – Part 4

Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

His lips were blue and his breathing had become erratic as we had reached cruising altitude. I measured his pulse oximetry again, it had been 95% on the ground, now it was 89%, and his heart rate was 120. I attached the tubing to the oxygen cylinder and then placed the prongs into his nostrils. His readings started improving and his lips returned to their usual colour. He had nausea and I gave him an anti-nausea injection. I asked him if there was anything else he needed, he shook his head. He was exhausted and in a few minutes he fell asleep.

Although I had already been a doctor for 13 years by this stage, working on this medevac flight was different to what I was used to. As doctors we usually see our patients briefly. The longest time we spend is usually during the admission process, we might spend 30 to 80 minutes seeing the patient for the first consult. In the hospital/hospice setting further follow-up visits are usually short, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. The rest of the time between visits the care is provided by the rest of the team, especially our nursing colleagues. So it is possible that during a week long admission, that a patient might only be seen face to face by their doctors for two hours or much less in total.

During the flight it felt like I worked half a nursing shift. As an untrained beginner nurse I kept an anxious eye on my patient. My head was constantly tilted towards him, watching his chest moving up and down. Making sure that he was still breathing steadily. He awoke halfway through the flight in pain, and more pain relief was administered. He stirred a few more times, as if he was having a bad dream. All throughout the four hour flight I checked on him at least once a minute. This was an exhausting vigil to maintain driven by my own anxiety more than anything else, one on one nursing is hard work. We were getting closer and closer to his home. I silently willed him to hold on a bit longer, that he’d be able to see his family soon.

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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