Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Afraid to Die


Last night a man came to my house asking a favor. Would I go to his father’s house to see if I could do something to relieve his pain? The man said his father had swollen legs and body, couldn’t walk. He had returned from a three-day stay in the hospital. Upon further inquiry, it was revealed that the father had long been suffering from gout and in the hospital had been given a catheter with some mention of the word cancer. The man was unfamiliar with any of the medical terms and knew nothing about the disease affecting his father. Since he felt I had a better understanding of medicine, he gave me permission to go to the hospital to find out more.

The head nurse knew the patient well for he had been there often for gout, but he now was diagnosed with a malignant prostate cancer blocking his ability to urinate. I asked how she would treat this person and she said she would give him all the pain medicine he wanted. Then she added, “He is afraid to die”.

Her words haunted me on my bike ride home. How could she be so callous? I realized the resources in the country are few, but still? Her words marked the differences in our worlds. Her belief in life everlasting exceeded the need to prolong life at any cost. Death was not something to fear, but almost that for which your mortal life has prepared.

In trying to explain to the father’s son and his wife about prostate cancer, the probability of a long suffering illness before death, and how they need to give thought about the care of the man in the months ahead, I questioned if I was afraid to die. I don’t know. I do know I am not ready.

No comments: