Taking Care of Chronically-Ill Family Member

By Mommy Donna and Kib - November 20, 2014

Every new year, my father always thank the Lord for giving us good health, and it has always been his fervent wish and prayer for the coming year.  I never understood the meaning of my father’s prayer until he got terribly sick in 2007.  Our world shattered when we saw our father fighting for his life in the hospital bed.  He was seen lying on the floor  inside his cubicle in the office, although conscious, he can’t speak and move half of his body.  He was immediately rushed to Philippine Heart Center and in less than 24 hours he was comatose.  The doctors talked to us that he needed to undergo emergency craniectomy to lessen the pressure in his brain (he had CVA-cardiovascular accident, or in layman’s term, stroke).  He was in the operating room for five hours and with the grace of God, we saw him opened his eyes after his surgery.  Danger is not yet over; he still needed to be observed for 72 hours.  However, it was observed that the oxygen level in his body was not stable, so it was recommended that he should undergo another surgery—tracheostomy.  In less than a week he had undergone two major surgeries.  In three weeks, he was out of the ICU and just continued recovery in a regular hospital room.  We stayed in the hospital for almost two months.  He went home weeks before Christmas and I saw the happiness on his eyes when he saw Kib.  Kib was just a year old then so he was not allowed to go inside the hospital premises.  What we did was I still bring Kib to the hospital, asked my mom to go at the waiting area to spend quality time with Kib, I took pictures of Kib and show it to my father. 

After a week at home, Papa was back to the hospital due to pneumonia.  That second hospitalization was traumatic for us because doctors in the Emergency Room declared code blue.  Papa had seizure while his attending doctor tried getting a sputum sample.  Few minutes before declaring code blue, we were already arranging his room in the hospital.  Plans have changed and the ER nurse called ICU to arrange a room for my father.  Papa had emergency tracheostomy at the ER.  The hospital staff tried to intubate him but all tubes won’t get through his throat so they have no choice but to do an emergency tracheostomy (note: his first tracheostomy tube was removed days before we went home and he developed keloid scars underneath that is why intubation was not successful).

It was the saddest holiday in our family.  We spent Christmas and New Year in the hospital while Papa is in ICU.  We went home two weeks after the new year and that’s the start of his recovery.  I prepared for his homecoming.  I bought some hospital equipment to be used at home just in case there will be an emergency. I kept the barangay’s number at hand too.  Since his illness affected his speech, we were always like playing charades trying to guess what he wants.  I also felt his frustration over his illness that it came to a point that he didn’t like seeing people.  It took several months before he decided to undergo therapy. 

Our life was like this for three years.  Our social life was limited.  We can’t go far, or if there’s need for us to just make pasyal, we have to be home by 5pm just in time for my father’s feeding time.  I go to Bambang every three months to shop for my father’s medical supplies.  I spent around P7,000 whenever I go to Bambang to buy my father’s medical supplies.

In 2011, we were back again in the hospital.  While everybody’s celebrating New Year, my mom was calling us do attend to our father because he vomited blood.  I was asking my father if he liked to be rushed in the hospital but he gestured he didn’t want to.  The following night, I just wanted to see him if he's okay and as I checked his body temperature, he had slight fever so I didn’t take any chances of rushing him to the hospital.  Again, it’s pneumonia.   We spent three weeks in the hospital then.

March 2011 we were back in the hospital again because he vomited blood.  This time his doctors sensed that he was not getting better.  All kinds of strong antibiotics were already administered to him and we were even told that they were going to administer the last antibiotic that they can possibly give.  He spent his 60th birthday in the hospital.  Barely three weeks after his 60th birthday, he passed away quietly at home.   We didn’t see him gasping for his final breath; had I seen him gasping for his final breath, it could’ve been extra traumatic for me.

It has been three years since he passed away but we still miss him…

Papa in 2007 before he got sick (left) and Papa in 2010 (right). Notice that his head is uneven because of his surgery and his throat is being covered by gauze because he has tracheostomy tube.

Now, why am I telling you our story?  Taking care of chronically-ill patient is no joke.  It can be stressful to the whole family including the sick family member emotionally and financially.  

Last Wednesday, November 19th, my son and I attended the celebration of World COPD Day at Shangri-La Makati. The theme of this event is “It’s Never Too Late”.  The theme emphasizes the meaningful actions people can take to improve their respiratory health, at any stage before or after a COPD diagnosis.  I decided to attend this event even we don’t have any experience in taking care of a family member with COPD because my father had a co-patient in the hospital with COPD.  The family struggled with the disease for several years with frequent hospital confinements.

Kib with Ms. Ria Tanjuatco-Trillo of ANC.  She hosted the event.

COPD has already been existing for a long time but it was only ‘sensationalized’ in the Philippines when the King of Comedy Dolphy Quizon had that disease.  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is now one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the 21st century.  In our country, it  ranks as the 7th cause of death.  Sad to say only 2% of the cases are diagnosed by doctors and given proper treatment.  It was assumed that the reason for under-diagnosis and under-treatment is probably due to lack of public health awareness of the illness in our country. 

COPD is characterized by persistent airflow limitation that is usually progressive and associated with an enhanced chronic inflammatory response in the airways and the lungs.  COPD is a type of non-communicable disease so there’s no need to worry about contaminating the air that we breathe with the virus.  It is also a non-hereditary disease.  We are in a high risk of getting COPD if we are exposed to cigarette smoking (first and second hand smoking), biomass fuel (such as charcoal and firewood), air pollution and occupational dust. 

My son and I had a chance to see examples of healthy and damaged lungs at Myth of the Human Body exhibit in Boom na Boom complex in Pasay City.  Healthy lungs are very clear and big and damaged lungs are black and small.  A person with COPD has a hard time breathing, always coughing, and has a high amount of phlegm in the body. 

COPD is a progressive disease.   Eric Quizon, son of Comedy King Dolphy, shared the struggle of their family with the disease during the World COPD Day celebration.  They didn’t know that Dolphy had been suffering from COPD for a long time already because he himself chose to hid his true condition to his children.  Dolphy had COPD for decades before he passed away in 2012. 

Mr. Eric Quizon sharing their family's struggle during the Comedy King's illness.

It is important to remember that for COPD patients, early detection of the disease and appropriate interventions are vital.  These can help slow down its advancement and facilitate quality life for the patient.

I am sealing my blogpost with dedication to all those who have COPD and other chronic diseases.  I am sending prayers to their family as well.  May the Lord continually bless you and keep you strong.  Hold on to God who is our mighty Healer.  Keep your faith in Him.

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  1. Oh Donna! Hugs. Yes, I would understand how seeing your father gasping for his last breath would've added to the trauma.

    I have my own experience of living with a sick loved one who eventually passed away after years of hospitalisations, medications, etc. - my sister. So I somehow understand how you feel.

    Thank you for sharing about COPD.

    1. Thanks for dropping by May!

      COPD is a disease that people needs to know more of. It can really be stressful to the family and the patient too because it is a progressive illness.

      Hugs to you and your family too for experiencing a tough time in your life. God bless!

    2. Nakakaloka naman ang post mo at naiiyak ako again. Thanks for this ha and thank you for taking time to read my post as well!
      See yuo soon dear! Hugs