After for a few weeks since my dad died I felt like not doing anything. I realize this is not good for me, both for my soul and health. I slept and woke up late, didn't exercise, and didn't have appetite. Is it a self-destruction? Maybe. For a second I thought I was slowly killing myself. But then I remember that I had made a promise to my dad that I would take care of my mom. Who's gonna take care of my mom if I couldn't take care of myself? And deep down inside I know my dad wouldn't like it. He would be angry with me if he saw my condition. So, I pick up my tab and choose an e-book to read. When I feel I don't want to talk to anyone, I find consolation in reading.
Now I'm reading Social Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I was reading chapter "People Prescription" and I was interested in that chapter. It was about health institutions, hospitals, doctors, and nurses treat their patients. We often hear complaints about doctors and nurses have lack of empathy, less appreciate their patients, and make no attempt to build rapport with their patients. I bet we also hear gossips about how hospitals try to make more money from their patients. Just like Goleman quoted Aldous Huxley from The Perennial Philosophy, "Our institutions are organized lovelessness." I've been there. I was with my dad when he was in that position. So, I do know how it feels.
I know what it feels like to see doctors and nurses seemed not really care or when they treated my father in "I-It" attitude. This blog post isn't about those complaints, though. Here I want to share our family's experience when my dad was treated with good, kind, and loving care.
If you've already followed this blog in such a long time (I think I don't need to define "a long time" :P ), you probably already read my blog posts about my dad. I wrote many times about him. So, I assume you know that my dad had cancer. But, for those who just found this blog and were clueless what I was talking about, let me resume in three sentences. In 2009 my dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. In 2011 his cancer spread to his liver and his right lung. And about three weeks before he left us, doctors told us that his cancer was already in his ribs, spleen, and got another one in liver and bowel. Well, I hope it enlights you. :D
Based on our experience, the most important thing to help my dad was treating him in more humane way, not as an object. And that we felt from my dad's doctors, Dr. Tan Yew Oo and Dr. Tay Khoon Hean, and nurses at Dharmais Hospital, Jakarta. They all asked what my dad really wanted and what he felt. They wanted to make him comfortable and felt less pain. It's not about what doctors want or what they feel good for their patients, but it's more what patients want for themselves.
Both my dad's doctors had become very good listeners. They listened attentively my dad's complaints and his stories. I think when patients have disclosed themselves to their doctors, it means they trust their doctors. When trust is earned, it'll be easier for doctors to give treatment for their patients. And that happened to my dad. My dad trusted his doctors. My dad trusted Dr. Tan. He followed the treatment program that was made by Dr. Tan. Dr. Tan not only help him by medications, but also he helped my dad in ways that we couldn't say and thank enough.
My dad trusted Dr. Tay, too. I even think my dad really loved Dr. Tay. I remember when my dad was in recovery after his liver surgery, he felt pain and didn't want to eat. Dr. Tay came to visit him and asked him to eat. After he left the room, my dad then asked for meal. Still in recovery, one day my dad had schedule to see Dr. Tay. While we were in our hotel, he said he had fever and pain in his body. Albeit fever and pain, we still went to see Dr. Tay. Do you know what happen next? After seeing Dr. Tay, my dad said his fever and pain had already gone.
In 2012, I forgot in what month, my dad had another surgery. This time he had his lung operated. Even though Dr. Tay wasn't the one who operated him, but Dr. Tay came to visit my dad every day at Mount Alvernia Hospital. Every day. I believed what Dr. Tay did, by visiting my dad, gave him confidence and boost his spirit to get well soon. And when things weren't getting any better, my dad came to Dr. Tay and sought for solace from him. I remember when we came to him and told him that my dad's cancer was back to his liver, Dr. Tay soothed him. He told my dad not to give up and my dad should follow treatment from Dr. Tan. And before we left, Dr. Tay hugged my dad.
At Dharmais Hospital, we felt the same thing. The nurses there were tremendously good. We could see that from the way they nursed my dad and the way they talked to him. They cheered my dad up. Because my dad spent his last 20 days at the hospital and he was taken really good care by the nurses there, we couldn't thank them enough. Their genuine hearts helped my dad to have less pain and I bet my dad was happy because of them. If he were alive, I was so sure my dad would give many compliments to the nurses and he wouldn't stop talking about them to every person he would meet.
Bottom line is what we need from doctors, nurses, and hospitals is compassion. What a patient needs not only pills, injection, IV, and others kind of medications, but also humanity. Just like Kenneth Schwartz (he built center for compassionate healthcare, by the way) put it:
"Quiet acts of humanity have felt more healing than high-dose radiation and chemotheraphy that hold the hope of cure. While I do not believe that hope and comfort alone can overcome cancer, it certainly made a huge difference to me." (Social Intelligence, p. 263)