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May 26, 2011

Healthy Living gets palliative care

A terminal illness essentially puts an expiration date on the diagnosed person’s life and for some patients; it’s a rough ride to the end. But there is a way to ease the pain and as you will find out in tonight’s Healthy Living, it’s called palliative care. Dr. Beatriz Thompson, of the Belize Hospice Palliative Care Foundation, goes into the details of how this type of treatment brings back some normalcy and relief to the patient.

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Palliative care is a field in medicine that a lot of people aren’t acquainted with.  This type of care is aimed at improving overall quality of life for patients and families facing serious illness. In Belize, a voluntary organization was formalized in 2008 called the Belize Hospice Palliative Care Foundation to address the needs of terminally ill patients. One of the founding members, Dr Beatriz Thompson helps us to understand more about this type of care & the role of the foundation.

Beatriz Thompson

Dr Beatriz Thompson, Anesthesiologist

“Palliative care or palliative care is care for the patient who has progressive or a short life expectancy or an advance disease with a primary focus of preventing and relieving suffering in these patients and also focusing on their quality of life.”

Marleni Cuellar

“When you talk about improving the quality of life of a person, what are some of the things that you are able to do in palliative medicine?”

Dr Beatriz Thompson

“Palliative medicines when we talk about improving quality of life we try to make as much as possible independent and bring them back as much as possible to where they were before the disease or where they were able to be independent in spite of the disease and everything it brings along with them but that they’d be able to move out of the bed, feed themselves and even when they can’t feed themselves to hold on to that dignity.”

In fact, through her work in the health care system, Dr Thompson and others recognized the need for palliative care in Belize and were visiting with the sick long before the formalization of the foundation. Initially they began to work with cancer patients who couldn’t access treatment.

Dr Beatriz Thompson

“So if we’re not doing prevention and we have only one center going for doing chemotherapy the other alternative is palliative care because the disease will progress to that stage where the whole neighborhood will hear you screaming with pain and so if that is what we have. Because even here in Belize when you start thinking cancer and start thinking about other terminally illnesses by the time they get it it may not be treatable and the only other hope is palliative care in terms of relieving your suffering and being able to die with dignity.”

The foundation has successfully lobbied for oral morphine to be administered to patients to reduce the pain they endure. According to Dr Thompson, their work has grown beyond cancer patients as they now work persons with AIDS and other terminally ill patients. They aim to help both patient and families move through the grieving process from phases of denial, anger, depression and lastly acceptance.  It’s a challenging role especially due to our perceptions of death.

Marleni Cuellar

“Often times when people think about terminal illness or nay kind of condition they believe it should be a fight to then end. Is accepting palliative care or going through this period ‘giving up’ the fight?24.36

Dr Beatriz Thompson

“Usually we’ll see that the patient will tell the doctor they want to give up. You know why I tell you this you had these two patients that died. Both those children these were 6 years old and 10 years old and decided to tell their pediatric oncologist. I will not come to Merida anymore. I want to be with my family in Belize. And those are the patients, people will always say, no more. It hurts too much.  Death is a natural part of life. It is a part of life. Everybody will die. It is in our culture that we don’t accept death we don’t talk about death nobody wants to hear about death. Tomorrow they’ll turn off the TV when it comes to this part but is the death natural part of living and it will come sooner or later and when somebody has a terminal illness it is an opportunity to say goodbye you have time on your hands to do all those things with your loved ones that you wanted to do and couldn’t do. A lot of other things you can put in place.”

The Belize Hospice Palliative Care Foundation, a voluntary organization, has approximately twenty active members made up of doctors, nurses and non medical members. They currently administer to both adults and pediatric patients.

Dr Beatriz Thompson

“Here the nurse the doctor, the non medical person they go as a team to see how they can help these people. Spiritually, emotionally, they sing, if they have to dance for them, they dance for them they’ll pray with them read the bible to them and the doctor also will do all these things and of course focus on the pain and whatever symptoms the person is presenting.”

For more information on the foundation you contact their office at 203-2901.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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2 Responses for “Healthy Living gets palliative care”

  1. BZNinCALI says:

    Great job, we need this.

  2. Kay says:

    It’s never easy to accept death, but with the love and care you give to these patients facing it at early phases in their lives, it sure makes it less painful. God Bless you all at the Palliative Care Foundation.

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