As told from the perspective of a physician:
As a physician in public service for past 15 years, I have had thousands of encounters with different people of different backgrounds.
Sometimes an experience with a patient & a family stays with me for a long time long, such as my experience with Dr. K’s death and my encounter with his family.
From this experience, I personally have learned many things and wanted to share my feelings with you all and for a common benefit.
Dr. K’s was admitted to my ward under my care for five days only and passed away due to terminal cancer-related illness.
Like any immigrant, his story was also full of struggle, dedication, and accomplishments for himself, his family and children. He was a professor, a researcher with many publications in a local university. Everything was going well until 3 years ago when he got some spots on his lungs and further investigations revealed that he was suffering from aggressive cancer. He received initial treatment in my hospital for last 3 years but because of the nature of the progressive illness, had to quit his job as a professor. This change in life circumstances brought many implications for his family in terms of financial and social hardships.
His son, a young man and mirror image of his father, had been accepted in the State of Texas for the medical residency program, after finishing his MBBS from local medical school in Muslim Country where his father was employed from Pakistan. I had 3 encounters with this man who flew urgently from the USA due to the terminal nature of his father’s illness. His father passed on a candle of faith, light, wisdom and financial strength to his son by equipping him with the state of the art education before he passed away from this worldly life. I saw a bright light in the eyes of his son, and he was ready to take on the challenges of this life as now being the custodian of his family and other younger siblings in the absence of his father.
I also met Dr. K’s mother who was about 80 years old and flew from Pakistan to KSA-she was strong like a mountain during this whole ordeal.
One time, Dr. K had nausea and was about to vomit while in the hallway, his wife cupped her bare hands before him in case he did so.
In past 5 days, there was not a single moment in which someone from his family was not next to Dr. K’s bed.
Dr. K. faced off his illness very bravely, his wife told me that for the substantial part of last 3 years, he drove to the hospital by himself, received chemotherapy and came back home until the last 6 months of his life when he became disabled due to progressive nature of his illness.
One time, I asked Dr. K, the secret behind his strength of how bravely he was facing off his illness. He smiled and said, “A man should stand tall and upright for his family and community, and if sometimes tribulations and trial of this life bend him down, he should not show weakness”. I was astounded.
Dr. K’s sister in laws flew from the UK and I was amazed to see how this lady was sticking with his sister (Dr. K’s wife) and was there in all family meetings, daily rounds and remained a very supportive personality for her extended family members.
Here in most cases, palliative patients, whether they are young or old, do not know their true diagnosis. It is the family who mostly deals with diagnosis, prognosis and the treatment plan even n terminal cases. However, things are changing slowly here too.
In the case of Dr. K, he knew all his medical history but he designated his wife to communicate with me regarding his daily treatment plan,
One thing I remember very well while having a family meeting on end of life issues- nothing in medical interventions satisfied the family’s hearts, as the medical community could not offer anything curative but palliative measures. However, only the below references from Quran and Hadiths of Prophet Mohammed ( PBUH) brought a tremendous relief to the grief and sorrow of this family.
“And those who believe and whose offspring follow them in Faith, to them shall We join their offspring, and We shall not decrease the reward of their deeds in anything”
Ibn ‘Abbaas said, commenting on this verse:
Allah will raise the offspring of the believer to the same degree as him, even if they are lower than him in terms of good deeds, so as to bring joy to his heart. Then he recited the words (interpretation of the meaning): [at-Toor 52:21].
When a person enters Paradise, will he recognize his relatives?
Yes, he will recognize his relatives and others, which will bring joy to his heart, because Allah, may He be exalted, says:
“(There will be) therein all that the ones inner-selves could desire, all that the eyes could delight in, and you will abide therein forever” [az-Zukhruf 43:71].
Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except for the enjoyment of delusion? [Al-Imran, verse 185]
Believers need to be aware while living in Western Societies, that life does not mean living for himself or herself, it is beyond and much more. I will finish this with the reminder of Allah Almighty’s absolute words of wisdom for all mankind.
"So give the relative his right, as well as the needy and the traveler. That is best for those who desire the countenance of Allah, and it is they who will be successful.” [Surah At. Rum Verse 38]
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