Specialist finds call to care for terminally ill patients

KINDNESS for the Dying is a call of duty for palliative care specialist Dr. Anila Perumal, who has dedicated her career to facilitating the final phase of patients at the end of life.

“Many doctors see this as a depressing career. However, interest in it has grown over the past 10 years,” Anila said. the sun.

As one of approximately 40 palliative care specialists in Malaysia, Anila has a multidisciplinary approach to dealing with patients and their family members, who are their primary caregivers and support system.

“Palliative care systematically treats their physical and psychological suffering. The focus is on the patient’s life and how to give it meaning and purpose.

“We work as a team. There is a psychologist, a social worker, an occupational therapist and a nurse. All members bring a different contribution when caring for a patient.

Curiously, palliative care was not Anila’s first choice of specialization. She had wanted to be an endocrinologist, but found her calling 10 years ago while serving at the Malacca Hospital.

“I remember a patient who was admitted with heart failure,” she said of her turning point.

“I thought I had tried everything in the book. I did everything taught in medical school but eventually his disease became irreversible. I felt helpless because I was a specialist.

“I thought I should be able to handle it, but I didn’t know what to say or what to do.

“The patient had difficulty breathing, was constipated and depressed. It was a blow to his family when he died in his late forties. I didn’t know what to say or how to comfort his family. I knew there was a huge gap in my knowledge then. I had little exposure to palliative care.

Later, she came across a Ministry of Health program and signed up for an intensive program that opened her eyes to the different ways to treat patients in their final stages.

Anila, who now works at Tuanku Jaafar Hospital, also told of another case involving a young patient with cervical cancer.

The patient was undergoing treatment but during the Covid-19 pandemic, her husband died of a heart attack.

“She went into deep grief and depression. She no longer wanted to undergo treatment. She arrived at the hospital a year later, but unfortunately the cancer had spread. Treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy became difficult because they had advanced so much.

“When I first saw her it looked grim but with a background in palliative care we look at a patient as a whole person and try to understand what gives meaning to their life.

“She was aware that her health was not improving. She said that as a teacher, the lives of her students she touched gave her meaning. It gave her a lot of dignity at a time when she was weak and had lost her independence.

Inspired by his patient and with a psychologist, they organized a Google Meet with the patients’ students.

“She was smiling and she sat down. I have never seen a patient who looked so sick become so bright and alive. She said it wasn’t the medicine bottles she needed. Instead, she wanted people to see her as a person.

“Psychological, spiritual and physical needs are something that we have to see separately and holistically as a person. We don’t just treat the disease.

Anila’s choice to specialize in palliative care made her realize that medical care is not limited to curative efforts, but also contributes to a meaningful quality of life for patients.

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