Palliative care nurse: It's about dignity, not desolation
A nurse's story
By the time patients get referred to nurse Amy Lim, 49, they are often into the final stage of their illness.
They are mostly cancer patients and those with irreversible organ damage and their life expectancy could be anything from days to months.
Nurse Amy - as all her patients call her - helps them live out their remaining days with "dignity instead of desolation".
"Medical, spiritual or even miracle healing - these patients would have tried everything to recover," she says.
"I might not be able to cure them, but that doesn't mean I can't help them heal."
The New Paper on Sunday followed her for three days as she went on her rounds of home visits across Singapore.
At first glance, her appearance appears to be at odds with her vocation.
Her enthusiasm is near infectious and her joyful demeanour does not suggest someone who works with the dying.
Then you see why this is perfect.
The smiles she receives show just how welcome a presence she is in her patients' lives.
She does not merely administer treatment. The fact that their nurse spends time, holds their hands and listens to them is visibly appreciated.
Nurse Amy has been a palliative care nurse with HCA Hospice Care for over eight years - a far cry from her early days as an obstetrics and gynaecology nurse.
"I literally went from baby showers to funerals overnight," she says.
From the one-room rental flats of Taman Jurong to the upmarket gloss of private bungalows in Bukit Timah, Nurse Amy's clientele takes in the entire spectrum of social strata.
She heads out, pulling a travel suitcase that houses her vital supplies. They include vials of injectable morphine, which are so essential to her patients that she would fight for the painkillers above all else if she is robbed.
"I'd say take my money, not this bag," she says.
But Nurse Amy also sees the uglier side of people.
The reality of their body breaking down is a wake-up call some refuse to answer.
"A patient's spouse once told me that she would rather see her husband dead than help change his soiled diapers."
Her tone suggests that this is something she has seen too often.
"Her husband was just beside her."
There have also been instances of patients and their families refusing medical intervention for spiritual reasons.
She recalls a 74-year-old throat cancer patient who believed her illness was retribution for being a poultry butcher during her youth and stopped taking her medication.
"Her job as a butcher helped send her children to school and put food on the table," says Nurse Amy.
"What saddens me most was that she died a slow, painful death, thinking she had committed a terrible sin."
Most recently, she touched the life of 55-year-old Rhama Mohd Said, a patient suffering from stomach cancer."Amy is more of a sister than a nurse," Ms Rhama told TNPS.
"She has been there for me from the start even when no one else was. That is something I'll never forget."
Sadly, Ms Rhama, who had lived with her older sister and four other relatives in her three-room apartment in Clementi, died on March 14.