The discovery of palliative care with two mobile teams – a testimony from Lucie, a French volunteer

From my first week in Moldova, I had the opportunity to visit several cities in Moldova, in order to meet patients with incurable diseases cared for by Hospices of Hope Moldova mobile teams and discover a field that I did not know: palliative care.

 

SOROCA – Wednesday, November 20, 2019

For our first trip, we went to Soroca. First, I met the mobile team: doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, etc. The team members were really nice and hospitable. They seemed happy to meet me and make me discover their mission.

After some coffee and snacks, it was time to visit the first patient.

1st visit

A little further away from the city, we went to an apartment to visit a man who is around sixty years old. For me, it was the first time I faced such advanced disease. The man came to open the door with difficulty before lying down again in his bed.

Before sitting down, a cat probably hidden behind the bed suddenly came up and surprised us. It seemed like he was keeping company to the man before we arrived and frightened him.

The nurse, the social worker, my colleague and I settled around him. He proposed us to seat before his wife arrived. I could feel a certain sadness in her and in the social worker who seemed to hold back her tears… My colleague told me before going through the door that it could be a difficult moment but that we could smile and try to bring him joy and appeasement.

The nurse took care of him by giving advice, and pain treatment. She was talking a lot to him. I don’t understand Romanian yet but I noticed how important exchanges and taking the time are.

Despite the situation and the probable pain of the patient, he tried to be funny and to keep smiling. He insisted on offering apples to our team and we accepted.

2nd visit

For the second visit, it seemed to me that we were getting further away from the city, in a village that looked affected by poverty.

We crossed a garden, and again a cat was present. We entered a sort of room that seems to serve as an entrance. There, the elderly lady we were visiting was already sitting on a chair. First, she was very smiling and welcoming. Her daughter was present too, although she no longer lived with her mother. We were immediately asked to sit as if it were a sign that we would take the time to discuss.

Once again, the doctor took time to offer the palliative care services and asked her several questions about the pain she felt. What was really touching about this woman was that she looked so nice and showed a nostalgic smile.

Again, I did not understand what was said, but I noticed the patience and empathy of the team members towards her. It seems to me that the patient seemed really relieved to be able to interact with several people, and maybe even on other subjects than her health condition.

At this time, the kind lady started crying softly and I think we all felt sorry.

When we left her home, I learned that the patient was suffering from multiple sclerosis, paralysis and, before being treated by Hospices of Hope mobile team, a severe depression. The organization has a real role of psychological support that I could notice directly.

3rd visit

For the third and last visit of the day, we crossed what is called the “Gypsy Hill” to go to a fairly large house. A lady opened the door. She was accompanied by several girls. We went to her living room to join her husband. The couple had five children and unfortunately, the dad had gallbladder cancer.

His wife brought the chairs closer so that everyone could sit around him. As I took a seat, I felt like I was getting into the intimacy of these people. Photos of the couple were displayed around the room, they did not look so old and yet the man was leaner and more smiling.

There too, the doctor and the nurse talked a lot with the patient, also with his wife who seemed to have the need to speak. Apparently, they were affected from important money issues which added additional worry.

When I left, I noticed that one of these girls was crying…

 

CAHUL – Friday, November 22, 2019

For my second day of discovery, we went to Cahul. Once again, I met the mobile team that had its office in a hospital. They offered me coffee and treats before setting off. The team was very welcoming too.

1st visit
The first visit in Cahul

Our first visit started at a lady’s house living with her daughter. What was really special about this patient was that she had incredible dynamism for her age and health condition. She was really smiling and made the team laugh.

As usual, her daughter brought us several chairs and there was also a cat who kept company in the apartment.

It was explained to me that she was joking about the fact she was hungry. Besides, this lady has no pain. I think she was more peaceful and positive than the other patients I have met.

2nd visit

Then we moved a little further from the city to a normally looking house. There were several ducks in front of the entrance of the garden and some cats appeared once we crossed the gate.

A lady with a very melancholic face and long black hair welcomed us. She looked very sad. We went into her house and directly into the room where her husband, our 2nd patient, was lying. I immediately understood the real difficulty of poverty that they were facing. Moreover, I quickly noticed how humid the room was because I started having some troubles breathing. Some walls were made of earth and there were holes in the ceiling. Fortunately, the heat was present in the room. The man was watching TV, but it was broadcasting a picture of very poor quality.

Here the mood was morose. The sadness was visible on the faces of the couple. The patient seemed to be suffering. Once again, the team took time to explain to his wife the drugs to give and the doses. Here we were not offered to sit down, but perhaps because there were not even enough chairs.

While observing the room, I noticed old portraits of the woman with long black hair who looked very beautiful. Today her face was marked by worries and sadness.

3rd visit

Finally, the third and last visit to Cahul concerned a man who lived with his wife in a quite pretty house.

Once again, his wife was very welcoming and insisted for us to sit down. In the room where her husband was staying, it was really good and warm. The space looked comfortable. In front of his bed, a computer with a webcam, probably to be able to make remote calls with a child abroad. At that time, I also thought about how hard it was for family members who were no longer in the country.

Everyone sat around him. Even people with no medical skills spoke with him. Once again, this proved to me that the subjects of conversation could be varied.

Here, the explanation of the prescription to his wife took time and I did not understand why but she had to sign several papers.

To conclude

I have not always been able to understand the names of the illnesses that patients were suffering from. It was the same for exchanges because I did not understand Romanian or Russian. But I could feel people’s emotions by reading on their faces. I think this is universal.

Some visits left their mark on me more than others, especially when pain and money problems were another difficulty. I was faced with real poverty in some families.

Several elements were similar from one visit to another. The presence of pets seemed important. Despite the difficulties, the families welcome the team with great kindness and seemed relieved by the arrival of the Hospices of Hope Moldova mobile teams. Psychological support is just as important as medical care because members really take the time to interact with patients.

I have the impression that every patient experience for this last ordeal is completely different. Sometimes more positive and sometimes less. Of course, it also depends on the suffering and the financial level.

By Lucie, November 2019