Meet our Staff: Ammara, Palliative Care Nurse

Shaukat Khanum Hospital was the first hospital in Pakistan to establish a physician-led multidisciplinary Palliative Medicine team. In a country where patients 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 our 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 dedicated nurses like Ammara Qaiser.

“Palliative Medicine is the care of patients whose disease has reached a very advanced stage,” explains Ammara.

“For these patients, recovery has become extremely difficult. This is when we dedicate ourselves to easing their discomfort as much as possible and managing 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. The family members of patients are also often depressed and under extreme stress. So, it is important to support them as well.”

“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 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.

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