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Personal Experience

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Complicity with good intentions

Language: English
Country: Italy
Typology: health care professionals
In the 1990s, I used to work in the surgery department. Once a young patient was hospitalized due to a fulminating liver cancer (he was the son of a former patient who had been cured of bowel cancer). He was married and had a daughter of eight months old and his wife was pregnant with another child. The patient was not operable nor even treatable with chemotherapy. The patient was not told the whole truth, at the request of his relatives (but he knew very well that he was about to die and tried to play the role attributed to him by his relatives not to hurt them). For the whole period, the patient was self-sufficient. During visiting hours, he used to come out from the ward to see his little girl who waited for him at the entrance of the stairs. When he could no longer move, the head nurse (the nun) was asked to make an exception on the visiting rules (no children under twelve years old), in order to allow the patient to see his child. Due to the role she played, the nun gave a negative response to their request (we, the nurses, received a negative response as well), but the nun herself knew that, when she left the ward at the end of her shift, we allowed the child to get in, asking also the other patients not to say anything to the nun the day after. The result was that the patient passed away peacefully (I think so!), because, till the end, he could see his daughter. Patients and nurses contributed, in an indirect but very involving way, to satisfy the patient’s wishes (perhaps the only one!). Including the nun (taking into account that she never reproached anyone of us or of the patients). When the patient passed away, in the department there was such a deep silence, that it was as if the lane had turned into an avenue of trees in a park.

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