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Learning to Let Go
27 October 2017

Learning to Let Go

Mdm Saadah  with her beloved grandma, Mdm Saudah.

On Sunflower Remembrance Day, we find out how accepting reality is key to moving forward for both caregiver and family

Ms Nur Saadah, was in Dublin when she received a call that she had been dreading, from Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

The stomach pain that her beloved grandma, Mdm Saudah Binte Semin, complained of three months ago on the first day of Hari Raya turned out to be stage four ovarian cancer. The doctors gave her a prognosis of four to six months.

Upon receiving that call, the thirty-six-year-old packed her bags without hesitation and flew home immediately.

A granddaughter’s sacrifice

“I was very close to her. All I wanted to do was to look after her,” Ms Saadah shared. Determined to take good care of her beloved grandma, she made arrangements for Mdm Saudah to move in with her. Through the doctor’s referral, the seventy-nine-year-old was placed under HCA’s home palliative care programme.

Ms Saadah, who was also a childcare centre director, was literally plunged into the primary caregiver role. The mental and physical challenges certainly took their toll.

“During work-hours, I had to manage the children, their parents and the teachers. At the same time, I was also receiving numerous calls from home, hospital and hospice on matters regarding grandma. I could not sleep properly at night as I had to attend to her every fifteen minutes to an hour.”

“As a result, I felt so tired every day,” Ms Saddah recounted of that trying time.

At that moment… it finally sank in.

Turn for the worse

During a homeopathy treatment, Mdm Saudah bled so badly that she had to wear diapers to contain the bleeding. Her condition deteriorated quickly from that moment on. She began hallucinating, was frequently dehydrated and showed signs of accelerated tooth decay.

One day, her regular HCA nurse, Christopher, gave Ms Saadah a letter containing an explanation on the signs of death. At that point, she simply chucked the letter aside.

A few nights later, when Ms Saadah detected a drop in Mdm Saudah’s blood pressure, she called the on-call doctor, to seek his advice on what to do.

“He said to me, ‘As you know, she’s terminally ill. At this time, there is no need to check her BP (blood pressure) but just assure her that everything is ok.’”

“At that moment,” Ms Saadah said, “it finally sank in.”

Unconditional love is what binds this close-knit family.

Getting ready

Ms Saadah realised that she had to adopt a mindset-shift and started preparing the family. Each family member was given specific tasks when the eventuality happens.

“Grandma herself was well-prepared. While she could still walk, she had prepared the cloth for burial which we Muslims use. She also placed the cash for the payment of her funeral in an envelope and passed it to the family.”

“On my end, I made sure that all the essential contact numbers had been saved on my mobile in the event that it happens.”

A peaceful departure

One day, when Saadah was at work, just ahead of the Christmas celebrations at her childcare centre, she received a phone-call from her cousin informing her that Mdm Saudah had passed away peacefully in her sleep.

“As prepared as I was, I felt “jammed within” when I heard the news. However, as a family, we were glad that she passed on the way she wanted – a peaceful departure, while we were all away.”

As Ms Saadah looked back, the gruelling four months were made more bearable with HCA’s support for the caregivers throughout the whole day.

HCA has been a huge blessing to us…

“HCA has been a huge blessing to us. We appreciate both the regular visits by Nurse Christopher and the assurance of help being just a phone-call away,” she shared, eyes glistening with gratitude.

For Ms Saadah, letting go of the attachment to Mdm Saudah is still difficult. Every day, she copes by holding on to the precious life values personified by grandma as a legacy to continue.

“Grandma was someone who was very patient, fair, forgiving and she always believed the good in people. Her legacy lives on in us and we will make it a point to impart it to future generations of the family.”