Palace of Care – Fade to Yellow

Photo by Tristan Gassert on Unsplash

In the last days of her life, she was visited by close friends and family members. She conversed with them and still shared her sense of humour with them. To some of her oldest friends, she said her final goodbyes.

One of her best friends asked me if it would be okay for her to have some champagne. I said I would allow it but she wasn’t allowed to drink alone. He went off to buy some. It had to be Tattinger Champagne, nothing else would do. I said she could eat whatever she felt like. A question was asked about cigarettes and again I had no objections. She was dying and she could do whatever she liked that would bring her some pleasure and normality.

“How can you tell that time is short?”

“She’s been deteriorating every day. She has become unclear in her thinking and is needing to sleep more. These are all signs that death is coming soon.”

“How long do you think she has got left?”

“A few days ago we thought she might only have days to weeks left to live. Now I think she only has hours to days left. She could die at any time.”

“Who do you think can come and visit her.”

“I’d recommend only immediate family only and her closest friends. Whomever she wants to see.”

“Will you let our brother know?”

“Sure, we’ll make contact with him.”

The next day four members of the hospice clinical team painted their nails yellow and orange to match their patient’s fingernails. When she woke up she was shown the photos and she was able to enjoy the yellow-clad doctor’s finger and toenails which were all highlighted in bright yellow. The nails gave her and the family something to smile and laugh about in between the tears.

The next morning the Polish team, who were not from Poland, were about to go into the room when the nurse came out to ask the family to come in urgently.

“She’s about to take her last breath.”

The clinicians made way for the family.

She died with the voices of her family telling her how much they loved her.

I think therefore I am? – The most beautiful sound I ever heard…

Photo by darin ashby on Unsplash

Over the past two years despite all the stressors faced there has been a sound heard increasingly throughout the corridors of the hospice. As many doors and windows have been left open to allow greater ventilation to allow viruses and other infective materials to be circulated out of the building but the sound of the wind is not the subject of this post. It has been cold at times during the winter and the sound of fan heaters has been present at times but again it is not interesting enough to merit any writing. When patients are breathless an electric fan is lent to them for them to have the breathlessness relieving air across the face which is more effective than oxygen and other prescribed treatments for people who can’t catch their breath. Our cleaning staff continue to work tirelessly to keep our premises clean, without their efforts we could not keep our operation running, and the importance of their infection control toil cannot be underestimated. The sound of vacuuming, wiping and mopping are commonly heard again and are not the subject of this piece.

The sound can be contagious. When you hear it you feel different. It is something that resonates inside you and it makes you feel more human and less alone. It can change your facial expression in an instant. It can lead to a sudden and rapid expulsion of air from your body. No, I am not talking about passing gas, that’s what anaesthetists do for a living, I work in palliative care. The brass band will not produce these sorts of sounds, but maybe the sound belongs in the orchestra’s wind section. Sometimes, playing an air guitar or the world’s tiniest violin can produce the sound.

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Palace of Care – White With No Sugar

Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog on Unsplash

It all started over a cup of tea, that was when they first met. They were at the local dance hall almost 60 years ago. Introductions were made over tea and biscuits and then they danced together for the rest of the evening. He was a gentleman and delivered her safely to her parents’ home. That was the start of their courtship and four years later they were man and wife. They moved overseas and enjoyed the big city life for several years. They toured the whole country and had adventures in many places, even visiting a famous underground city. They made their way home and settled down once the first child was on its way. Followed soon by number two.

They bought a house with a garden in which she planted her favourite camellias. All sorts of colours and she tended the plants with care. Nourishing them with her efforts over many years. The children started school and she could start work again. She worked as a secretary making sure everything ran smoothly in the office, putting her natural organization skills to good work. He organized his workshop well, he liked things to be well planned out. Their strong organizational abilities were another thing they had in common, their children were never late for anything.

English tea was her preferred beverage. There was nothing like a nice hot cuppa to warm you up in Winter. It had always been her favourite drink right from childhood. She wasn’t surprised to find out that tea plants were a type of camellia. She had always wanted to visit a tea plantation to see for herself how similar the plants would be to her camellias, but life was too busy. Everything went according to their plan, their children grew up and left home. Then the grandchildren arrived and the good life improved even more.

The organized couple’s plan worked out well, retirement plans had been worked out long in advance and many days were to be spent in their beloved gardens. The camellias never looked better and responded well to her increased presence. What they hadn’t planned for was for cancer to disrupt their well-considered plans. She became unwell and lost a lot of weight. She needed more help with the gardening as her energy had left her.

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