A snapshot of life in K2.

It has taken me a while to write this entry for my blog, as I simply don’t feel I have the words to do justice to the effect that the time I have spent in K2’s Palliative Care Wards has had on me. The people I have met have taught me so much and there are moments that will stay with me forever.

Here are just a few things to give a flavour my past 2 weeks:

My arrival being greeted by cries of “Sarah! Massage” and having to pose for photos for about 10 minutes before being allowed to start work.

Starting a mini rave in ward 6 the day that I took the ipod and mini-speakers in.

The contented munching as I handed out squares of homemade tablet that I had brought from Scotland for everyone to try. After all our hard work, a sugar fix was just what was needed.

Arriving at the hospital to see family members already massaging the patients, unprompted, before even realising I am there. That was the moment I realised that I must be doing something right.

The “Massage Conga” we started in Ward 5, with a big long line of family members massaging each others shoulders.

The patient who asked if I was married, then, upon discovering I was single, trying to marry me off to one of his sons. Tempting, but perhaps a little innapropriate under the circumstances! I may also need to improve my Vietnamese considerably to make that one work!

The moment that one of my patients insisted on giving ME a massage.

The patient who asked me for a hug at the end of his massage, then proceeded to bury his face in my boobs! Much to the horror of his sister, and the hilarity of the rest of the ward! He has terminal Cancer: I let him off!

Showing up on my birthday with a massive bag full of cake to share with everyone. Birthday cake: £5, the looks on their faces as they shared it out: priceless

Diep, who has been suffering from insomnia, falling asleep during her head massage and snoring so loudly that she raised giggles from the entire ward.

The lady who ran after me as I left and pressed an orange into my hand as a thank-you gift for massaging her father. I know for a fact that most patients and their families can barely afford to feed themselves. I was so very touched.

Watching as Son’s mother tended to his pain relief ports, cleaned his drains and gave him a bed bath. All the time laughing and joking with a smile on her face, despite the fact that her son was paralysed from the neck down and had only days left to live…

Taking one patient’s wife outside and giving her a much-needed hug as she finally allowed herself to cry. It is never just the patient whose life is affected by Cancer. In many ways, it is the family members who suffer more as they stand helplessly by.

Watching the families I have worked with from day one and seeing the effect that the massage has had on them: The man that on day one was in so much pain he could not sleep, now smiling contentedly as his wife massages his hands. Equally, seeing his wife’s shoulders finally drop and pained look in her eyes gradually melting away as she spends those precious moments with her husband.

Above all, realising that it does not matter that patients are sharing bed, the floor is a bit grubby, walls could do with a lick of paint and we are all sweating because one fan for an entire ward is really not enough.
We may have better facilities and materiel reources in the West, but what we have lost sight of is the value of basic patient care: We treat disease, not people.

Here, they realise the value of looking after the patient’s mental and physical needs. Families provide a much needed support network and work in partnership with the medical professionals to ensure that the patient is as comfortable and well cared for within their means.

These people have taught me more than any teacher ever could, and I am eternally thankful to them.