Meet Ammara, one of our Palliative Care Nurses at Shaukat Khanum Hospital

“We are also human and we break down too, but we always keep a smile on our faces when walking into a patient’s room, because hope is important.”

At Shaukat Khanum Hospital, we strive to give hope of life. But what happens when the end is near, and there is no chance of survival? We asked Ammara Qaiser, who’s been working as a Palliative Care nurse at the hospital in Lahore, for three years.

“Palliative medicine is the care of patients whose disease has reached a very advanced stage,” Ammara explains, “and whose treatment for cure has become extremely difficult. This is when we dedicate ourselves to easing their discomfort as much as possible and managing the symptoms like pain, nausea, constipation, and upset stomach. It is here that we see a lot of patients who are close to death.”

Ammara’s job is no less important than that of nurses who administer treatment. The care she provides is about giving ease and maintaining a patient’s dignity in those last days. It is certainly not easy.

“With other patients who are receiving treatment, no matter how much difficulty they are going through, we can still cheer them up, because there is still hope of recovery. In palliative care it isn’t so. Patient families are also often depressed, and under extreme stress. So it is important to support them as well.”

Shaukat Khanum Hospital was the first institute in Pakistan to establish a physician-led multidisciplinary palliative medicine team. In a country where patients have to struggle to find hospital beds, we’ve dedicated ourselves to taking care of patients and their families for the entire length of their journey.

Today, at both the Lahore and Peshawar hospitals, we have a complete ancillary team who participate in taking care of dying patients and their families. It includes physiotherapists, psychologists, nutritionists, and floor nurses. To call these team-members strong would be an understatement. But it’s their empathy and humanity that makes them excel at their jobs –and this means sharing the pain of loss, every time.

“Sometimes it is so difficult for us,” says Ammara, “knowing that the end is near for a patient. Right now we have a young boy here, who we’ve recently had to put on oxygen. His name is Ali. His father passed away, his only sister lives in Karachi and his mother, too, is sick. It is such a difficult time for him and his mother. In palliative care, it is our business to know all the dynamics of every family, in order to support them better. But because we know them so well, often it’s like seeing the death of one’s own family member.”

Death is the natural end for us all, and every person will experience it a handful of times in their lives when they lose the people they love. But people like Ammara have dedicated their lives to bearing that pain over and over with every person and every family they support. When asked about this, all Ammara has to say is:

“We are also human and we break down too, but we always keep a smile on our faces when walking into a patient’s room because hope is important.

From Ammara, and all of our Palliative care staff at Shaukat Khanum, thank you for giving us the means to support some of Pakistan’s poorest in their time of greatest need.

Find out more about our Current Appeals at Shaukat Khanum Hospital and how you can help.

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