Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vincible (1)

Inside St Catherine's Church, Bamban, Nueva VizcayaWe had a small group discussion with some first year medical students yesterday afternoon. Their new curriculum entailed that they study the entire normal spectrum of human life from womb to tomb in the course of this academic year. And since vacation’s about to commence, the topic today was about death and dying.

As part of the facilitators’ kit, I got a handout detailing what a good death is. According to Steinhauser et al, the components of a good death that doctors, nurses, social workers, the clergy, the patients, their family, and palliative care service volunteers must know appreciate are the following:

1. Pain and symptom management- that the anxiety and stress of a painful death, especially among those who are with long-term illness, should be eliminiated

2. Clear decision making- that patients should feel they are empowered to participate in making decisions with regard to their treatments options to avoid costly confusion in the middle of treatment which may reign among family members

3. Preparation for death- that the patient knows more or less the course of the illness, its prognosis, plus all the inevitabilities that follow their demise like the will, the funeral, obituary contents, etc and their families accept these and carry them out as wished

4. Completion- that patients and their families realize the formers’ worth, conflicts are resolved, issues are settled, the remaining time is well spent, goodbyes are said, and religious/ spiritual matters are taken care of

5. Contribution to others- that the dying patient is able to bequeath or the plan to bequeath all that s/he has to their rightful recipients is set in place and the family is able to commit to carry this out

As part of the discussion, we all made our If-I-Just-Had-48-Hours-To-Live-What-Will-I-Do List. The students came up with a nifty list. Among the oft-repeated items, in no particular order, were:

Spend time with family
Write letters to friends and loved ones
Say I love you to all who need to hear these
Camp out on the beach
Read
Scuba dive and/or skydive
Pray and go to confession


And the, more unique tasks were:

Karaoke marathon
Get even with all those who wronged him by kicking them in the crotch
Ensure that her egg cells are preserved for posterity
Clean her room


I made my own list:

Go on a road trip with my family. Visit as many churches as we can, preferably old, historic churches. Takes TONS of photos. Make a video blog. More long drives and long talks. Until we reach Lamon Bay in Quezon. Where my ashes will be scattered.

That’s what I call a good death =)

I reminded the students while they were making their own list that they should write legibly, and not to forget to put their names. Somewhere before we ended the session, I made them keep their lists.

I had no use for those.

My fervent prayer for them is that they get to do all the things that they felt and thought will facilitate a good death for them. May they tick off all the items in their list. May I tick off things from my own list as well.

Because I realized, death may come even before I finish this sentence.

Only when we come to terms with the fact that death is just around the corner will we truly live and savor life.

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