It was Mikaela’s fourth birthday. Her doting grandfather made sure he was home to celebrate the special day for his little grand princess — in his patient pyjamas and a wheelchair, oxygen tank in tow.
With Felix Tay, 74, receiving end-of-life care in the hospital’s palliative ward, the family was not in the mood for any celebration. Plans changed when nurse manager Emily Ng called to convey Felix’s wish to celebrate the granddaughter’s birthday.
Felix’s wife, Irene, was hesitant initially. She was concerned whether Felix’s condition would turn for the worse whilst at home. However, with the hospital’s support to make sure all contingencies are in place, Felix managed to secure a 3-hour home leave.
In the brightly decorated home, Felix recounted not being able to hold back his emotions, hugging Mikaela, telling her, “I love you very much. Grandpa might not be with you very long…” The young one had posed many questions without being fully aware of the situation.
When Felix recounted the moment to us before he passed away on 31 July, tears rolled down his cheek.
Felix had a history of COPD and was later diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome — a type of rare blood cancer — where patients do not have enough healthy blood cells. Over the years, he became increasingly weak and breathless, and had been in and out of hospitals.
Felix was originally hoping to spend his last days at home, but he knew it was not possible. The home visit might be short, but in a way, it helped Felix. “It is very painful to be apart from your loved ones, I just wish to have as much closure as I can have with my family,” he said.
“I am very thankful to the whole palliative care team. Sis Emily gave us a lot of help and reassurance,” said Irene, “She was off duty on the visit day but still took time to come back to the hospital to ensure that Felix was being sent home as planned!”
Emily was glad the team managed to facilitate a final reunion. “We can’t turn back lost time but we can help families create new memories with patients. Having family photos with Felix will remind Mikaela of her doting grandfather when she is older,” she said.