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"Precious Gems 50"- Brotherhood
03 July 2020

James* was an only child and when his father remarried, he had difficulties getting along with his step-siblings, until he met John*. The two met in their 20s, while on a tour. James and John hit it off immediately and became close travelling buddies. James, being seven years older, became the ‘kor kor’ (elder brother) that John never had, earning much respect from the latter. When John’s mum became afflicted with diabetes and suffered limited mobility, James moved in with John’s family and cared and cooked for the entire family. He took over both the parenting and housekeeping responsibilities of John’s parents and also became a well-loved kor kor to John’s four siblings.

All this happened over more than 50 years. Over the decades of brotherhood, the two ‘brothers’ endured John’s dad’s passing, followed by John’s mum’s passing. Both parents passed away in the current home they are staying in. Hence their current abode holds very special meaning in their hearts. John himself had been suffering from chronic illnesses for many years. He has psoriasis, a skin disease that causes red, itchy scaly patches, most commonly on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp and has no cure. He also has diabetes. James had single-handedly looked after John and the entire household.  

In Feb 2020, James, now 82, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that originates in the lymphatic system, which is the disease-fighting network spread throughout one’s body. He underwent surgery and chemotherapy, but the disease was progressive and aggressive. James’ liver and kidneys can deteriorate fast and he may fall into a coma anytime or die in his sleep. He was referred to HCA towards the end of May 2020.

John, at 75, decided it was time for him to take care of James. He quit his pre-school caretaker job, in the hope of supporting James, now that James' condition was deteriorating fast. In addition, James had requested to be looked after at home and to die at home. John wished to support James’ desire to pass away at home, but was limited by his own chronic conditions, which impacted his mobility, especially to provide physical care for James. Their joint decision was to admit James to an inpatient hospice. Both were extremely sad, but both understood their limitations.

When the HCA team learnt of their plight, they swung into immediate action. Using our Respectance Funds, they sought approval for private nursing services, to fulfil James’ wish to remain at home. The needs of both James’ and John’s were additionally supported by our multi-disciplinary team of doctor, nurse and medical social worker, who visited throughout the week. John was still rather ambivalent in facing the impending loss of James. However, the private nursing service really provided him with the respite he needed and the ability to focus on meaningful relationship and connection with James.

James was visited by many relatives, especially John’s relatives who were more like his family, old neighbours and even his own family members. There was time for reconciliation and prayers. Everything they experienced in the last week would not have been possible, had James been admitted to the inpatient hospice, as there were visitation restrictions, due to the Covid-19 pandemic situation.

The private nurses looked after James for nine full days. James passed away peacefully on 7 June 2020.

Admitting James into institutional care might seem to have resolved the matter. But our team went the extra mile to make James’ and John’s simple wish come true. An exemplar of passion and compassion by the team! Kudos to the HCA team!

Keep your passionate fires burning and keep safe, everyone!

*not their real names