Singapore (AsiaNews) - Unlike euthanasia, which "eliminates pain by eliminating life, palliative care improves [the quality of life of] every suffering human being." This is why, Amy Lim, a Singapore Christian, became a nurse specialising in the care of terminally ill patients. This job, she told AsiaNews, requires "deep humanity to empathise with patients" and help them find "happiness even in the midst of deep sorrow."
The married mother of three is currently preparing to serve as a volunteer at Nirmal Hriday, the first home for the sick and dying founded by Mother Teresa in Kolkata, in June 2014.
Amy said she is "very excited" because the Blessed, through her own life, gave "profound meaning to palliative care to those who are dying." It is precisely because of the love Mother Teresa put in her work that the nurse was able to "survive in this very emotional job." The full interview with Amy Lim follows.
As a palliative care nurse, what do you do to help patients? Why do you consider this service "sacred"?
Palliative care is a type of patient-centred care, based on managing symptoms and giving holistic support to both patients and their loved ones. It is tailored to meet the needs of the dying. Yet, the essence of palliative care is not the process of dying, but on how the individual who is suffering can live meaningfully the days that remain with his or her dignity intact.
In a world that considers each and every loss as a tragedy to avoid, palliative care shows that most human growth and humanity often comes out of tragedy, and that happiness can even come in the midst of deep sorrow.
How many times have we witnessed the forgiveness and reconciliation of the heart, hitherto denied, but made possible at the end of life thanks to good palliative care? Similar experiences are life lessons of great value to those who neglect the dying.
With tenderness, palliative care remind us that every man and every woman have value and importance, that they deserve not only our skills, but also our friendship, our respect and more importantly our humanity.
I feel that this work is sacred because in life there is much more than flesh and blood. There is a lot more than what we can see or measure. Those who want to apply this kind of treatment must be connected with the patient, always be present and stand by him or her to feel their pain.
Spiritual suffering and anguish are indivisible. Palliative care transcends the physical. Understanding what is most important for the patient and respecting his or her choices are critical components in this treatment.
What important lessons have you learnt from Mother Teresa, and how did the Blessed shape your vocation as a nurse for the terminally ill?
I think that Mother Teresa practiced palliative care for her whole life, taking care of the poor and the dying. Her powerful words - "It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving." - are the essence of palliative care.
Giving the best of oneself to those who will never be able to return one's kindness is the best form of therapy. In one of her last speeches, Mother Teresa said that the "gift of love" is really between us and God, never between us and the patient.
Her words are electrifying for me. Day after day, it generates the energy and compassion needed to continue to walk with the sick and dying. I hope to be able to influence many others to make sense of countless lives, and be that reassuring voice that brings hope, comfort and love to those who suffer in a dark world. In this way, our sweat and our tears will never be in vain.
Every soul is precious and must be treated with great tenderness, especially when the time to go comes. If it were not for the love Mother Teresa put in her work, I would not be able to survive in this very emotional job.
What are your thoughts about euthanasia and why is Mother Teresa's example in palliative care so important?
Euthanasia ends life prematurely. Palliative care adds quality to the days that remain. Euthanasia eliminates pain by eliminating the life, whereas palliative care is meant to improve [the quality of life of] every suffering human being by paying attention to him or her, including feeding them in last days of their life.
There are values and meanings that are worth trying in suffering. Palliative care relies on hope to face suffering; euthanasia kills any possible hope.
I often encourage my patients not to complain too much about what they have lost, but to focus on what they still have and consider each of these things as a blessing.
How do we do this successfully remains one of the biggest challenges in this type of treatment.
Palliative care is a patient-centred approach, actively listening to what and how dying people want to live the last days of their life, guaranteeing the comfort they deserves. It is all about what matters most to the patient at that time, and how we can make this journey real to them and their loved ones. With good treatment, euthanasia is unnecessary.
Why did you decide to volunteer at Nirmal Hriday in Kolkata?
At present, I am involved in a spiritual quest that I want to finish by June 2014. By then, I hope to be better able to provide spiritual care to dying patients, especially those who are spiritually distressed.
I would not do justice to Mother Teresa if I did not understand or bear witness a little to the love she put into her work. For this reason, I am taking my time to prepare, to be more effective when I am in Kolkata. I will bring with me all the love I can, together with the knowledge and the results of my quest.
My heart wants so much to bring the beauty and essence of palliative care to all those who, throughout the world, deserve it, especially those who are in the last days of their lives. In the past two years, I volunteered in Jakarta. I had the privilege of doing home care for dying children from poor local families, and also teach some lessons.
The work in Jakarta melted my heart even more but a big part of me wants to visit the Nirmal Hriday in Kolkata.
I am willing to make my contribution. I am ready to do everything that my coordinator tells me to do. I am sure that when this experience is over, I shall want to return in the future on a regular basis.