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“Precious Gems 7″ – Family
02 December 2016

I was at the door of Rose*, our patient’s home. We peered through the metal gates and a spritely old man, hobbling with a walking stick, opened the padlocked gate for us. Rose’s dad greeted us brightly and told us that she was in her room. We proceeded to Rose’s room and our nurse cheerily greeted Rose, who was lying in bed. Rose is 51 years old and suffers from stomach cancer. Her mom had passed away just a year before from stomach cancer and it was for this reason that Rose refused further treatment. She had seen that it did not work for Mom and so did not want to go through the same process. During her physical examination, Rose suddenly broke down and told us how lucky she was, in that all her five siblings strongly supported her, despite her illness.

Our nurse chatted with Rose. He asked if she would like to be taken outside the house for some fresh air and if there was anything that she would like to do. In between sobs, she declined to go out saying that it hurt to sit up. She told me about her teaching job, where she enjoyed interacting with the kids at the kindergarten. Her boss had been very kind to let her continue till Rose herself had to give up. She lamented about not having ever travelled out of Singapore, let alone being on a plane. I asked her why and she explained that it was important for her to save as much money as possible. Being single, she had put it upon herself to work hard and to help the rest of her siblings financially. I think she must have modestly forgotten that it was precisely for this reason that her siblings now strongly supported her.

Rose kept thanking our nurse profusely for the strong support and care he provided.

Dad was peering from outside the room and insisted that I sat on the chair he brought. He was hard of hearing but was all smiles and he loved to chat, although it was mostly a one way conversation. He told me he was 86 years old and during the Japanese war, he had suffered immensely. He told me that he was even slapped by the soldiers. He went on to explain that he too had suffered from cancer, as he used to smoke a lot, but he managed to overcome the disease. He rolled up his thin Tshirt and insisted that I look at his foot-long surgical scar across the left side of his chest.

He ushered us out of Rose’s room, pushed a stool to me and invited me to sit. He went to the kitchen and brought out 2 drinks and asked us to drink. Dad continued to regale us with his escapades of his younger days and much as I tried to pepper the conversation with my comments, I was totally ignored – Dad simply couldn’t hear what I was saying. Despite this, I was really happy to have let him spend time expressing himself. He was probably very bored with no one else to talk to. What struck me was when Dad ended his conversation with this: “My children all love me and they all love each other. I always teach them to love”.

Rose’s family care and support for each other despite the trials and tribulations is heartwarming. Their affirmation for each other speaks volumes – we can all learn from a humble family like Rose’s and it is through lessons like this, that I am still enjoying my journey in HCA!

We have chased away the clouds, the sky is all ‘Rose’

– Francois Hollande

*Rose – not her real name