Mr. F and Mr. M
We didn’t expect to hold these two patients so close to our hearts upon first meeting them. After a full week of working with them daily, Mr. F and Mr. M are two patients we will never forget.
We first met Mr. F in the FCCU, Family Centered Care Unit, which is the hospital’s palliative care wing for patients with chronic conditions. Mr. F had an HIV related stroke and when we first saw him he was emaciated, weak, and couldn’t hold any food down. Simply getting him up and walking with a front wheeled walker was a demanding task for his fragile body.
We first met Mr. M in the male ward, which is a general ward where patients requiring around the clock care are admitted. He too had a stroke but was not speaking or communicating through gestures. During our initial evaluation, we couldn’t even get him sitting up because he was so unresponsive. However, since his condition was stable, we recommended that he be transferred to the FCCU where we could work with him more closely.
When Mr. M transferred to the FCCU, he was brought into the same room as Mr. F, which we initially thought was strange since there were so many other open beds that would provide more privacy. Each patient, in order to be admitted to the hospital, must have a caretaker with them for the entire duration of their stay. The caretaker, typically a family member or close friend, gets the patient to the bathroom, cooks their meals, and provides for all their basic needs. We quickly learned that patients prefer to share a room because the patients and their caretakers become a support system for each other. Frequently we would walk into the room and Mr. F’s caretaker would be over with Mr. M’s caretaker helping to sit him up so he could eat. Although they never met before their hospital stay, they became each other’s supportive community. It was incredible to see how they helped each other out!
Throughout the week, we would come and work with Mr. F and Mr. M early in the morning. As Mr. F made progress walking, getting stronger, and gaining more control over his affected limbs, all the caretakers in the room would cheer together as they were now part of each other’s roads to recovery. Mr. M also made progress as each day he was more alert and responsive though he never did communicate with us verbally. Mr. M also had a strong case of Pusher’s Syndrome which provided quite a challenge for us as we attempted to support his tall frame towering over our own. Mr. M’s wife, who was quite a boisterous and animated woman, frequently helped us mobilize Mr. M and would repeat our instructions with extra emphasis, making us laugh. Getting to know her gave us some insight as to what Mr. M’s personality must have been like before his stroke.
Both patients made improvements every day but we did not fully realize the progress they made until Thursday afternoon, when we returned to see them for the second time that day. To our surprise both Mr. F and Mr. M were outside with their caretakers enjoying the fresh air and having their afternoon tea. They were all smiles as we walked out to greet them with our jaws dropped. Mr. F was long-sitting on the ground all by himself, looking happy and energetic. Mr. M was seated in a wheelchair with erect posture and able to make and maintain eye contact! We decided to forego our afternoon session of physio and let them enjoy their time outside. They had taken the skills we taught them and ran with them, and we couldn’t have been happier.
With warm hearts,
Samantha, Alycia and Melody (S.A.M.)