by Celina Carter
Pat Mackay wanted to die at home. Sixty-five years old and suffering from metastatic breast cancer, Pat told her family she wanted to spend her last days in her Toronto apartment where she could hold on to her favourite view overlooking the trees of the St. Clair Reservoir. Her husband, Mike, and her two sons agreed, moving a hospital bed into Pat’s den and sharing round-the-clock caring duties with regular support from outside caregivers. “She got to die the way that she wanted to and for us that was important,” says Pat’s son Jon, looking back on the experience five years later.
But Jon also remembers his helplessness the day he and Mike found Pat writhing in bed from terrible abdominal pain. They had no idea what was causing it or how to help stop the agony. Eventually they gave Pat a dose of morphine, still not certain they were doing the right thing. Later they learned that her pain had come from a full bladder; a caregiver had forgotten to empty her urine bag. Jon was stunned that something so seemingly minor had caused Pat such pain. “There is nothing standard about a very sick person,” he says.
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