Aga Kozak: You are medical carers …
Małgorzata Żalikowska *:… which means that we spend a lot of time with the patient. Our work involves closeness, presence, but also care …
Wioletta Broniarz **:… feeding, changing, changing positions, but also accompanying during walks, for example.
Doctors and nurses are in charge of things other than washing, changing or bringing in an extra blanket at night. We are the ones who hold the hand of patients when they have hard times.
This emotional and empathetic work is also part of your day …
W:… and often at night – when the hustle and bustle of everyday life subsides, visitors disappear, even the radio is not playing anymore. This is when loneliness and anxiety come to patients, and they do not want to call their relatives often so as not to wake them up or disturb them. So it is in front of us – during the evening toilet – the patients open up. We often listen to very different life stories, they also tell us about their fears: we pass this information on to a psychologist, because we can hug humanly and not unravel something complicated.
M: They tell us about longing for loved ones, but also about their ailments and needs.
W: Because we will listen, brush our hair, change the T-shirt and arrange the patient so that it does not hurt.
How did the ladies get into this profession? What impulse is pushing in this direction?
M: You have to be an empathetic, warm person who is not afraid to be close to other people. Be able to listen and see needs. We can do it. Already in high school, I thought that I would like to do something where I could be close to another person, help someone. When I found out that the Puckie Hospice was being established – I started coming there as a volunteer, then I finished school training as a medical carer in order to gain the necessary skills and be able to do more. This job makes me lucky, which may sound strange in the context of such a profession.
W: I, on the other hand – although I was thinking about the medical profession already in high school – on the way to the hospice in Puck, I ate bread from many ovens, for example, I spent years working in a commercial company, but after the birth of my second child I returned to my passion for craftsmanship. This led me in turn through rehabilitation and occupational therapy activities right here. As it turned out that the NHF hospice does not provide for an occupational therapist – I became a medical carer. So what? Years later, I also took up occupational therapy. We do all kinds of things …
… from pickling cucumbers …
… For everything that opens patients to conversation, being together. “Effects” – such as a drawing or cucumbers, are a “side effect” which, of course, proudly goes to the family. Anyway, this family is also the best excuse for such manual and therapeutic work. “For your daughter, please do it”, “for your grandson!” – works wonders and successfully fights excuses like “it’s not for me”, “I can’t”, “I don’t have talent” or “I’ve never done this”. Sometimes unusual things happen while doing this …
Please tell me!
W: The winter was cruel, so we were supposed to make a bird feeder. I found a simple design, I bought wooden elements … Two men were so caught up in making this feeder that I heard “baby, you can make us coffee, and who designed it?” One of them even went to get pipes – despite my fervent protests that smoking is not allowed here. And these two gentlemen, almost in the snow, in flip-flops, with cigarettes in their teeth, put the feeder together shouting to each other “hold, I’ll be sawing here!”. For a moment they forgot about the disease, they showed what they can do. This feeder is still here, as is the herbarium on wheels from the late Mr. Józef – the welder.
You smile when you talk about it.
W: Those expressive people, sometimes those who got under their skin are best remembered …
M: We do not hide that there are patients who are or have been particularly close to us.
W: We also cry easier, laugh easier, hug easier – that’s what this job gives us. But we always experience a loss – when we stop experiencing it, we will probably have to change our profession. We remember a lot, talk a lot, hug – it helps us.
In our hospice, no one will say “you are too attached to the patient, you must not”.
M: Separation helps me: I don’t take work matters home, although here, in the hospice, I give as much warmth, heart and mindfulness as I can.
W: It is definitely easier to cope when the patient has many years and experiences to his credit than when the patient could / could still survive so much.
And the heart is already squeezing when we see children coming to their mother or father with cards, enjoying every hour that we are happy, but we know that soon there will be no more people to draw for these candlesticks …
And although families and we are under the care of psychologists, we know about the inevitability of what will come, it is difficult to accept it.
M: But there are also patients who are so reconciled with death that they already ask “when it will be”, they want to leave.
W: And in the hospice it is not just that the patient is looked after – comprehensively, because from doctors, nurses, caretakers, dietitians, physiotherapists – but also our team is very well-coordinated, cared for and supported. If it is also the family that takes care of the patient – the hospice care is fully closed. We also support families and relatives – and this by helping on many different levels, even when the patient’s relatives get lost, for example in legal matters related to care.
And do families want to look after people who are leaving? After all, in our culture, we have moved away from death: there are no longer families of many generations, no longer being born and dying at home, and not going through mourning for a long time, because there is no place for it …
W: … there is a cult of body and youth – sure, full agreement.
But as soon as there are good relations in the family, their relatives are present, and civilization, modern solutions serve them to improve the quality of being ill. They are not afraid of touch, closeness, they join in caring.
It is worse when the existing relations are cold – e.g. after many years of disputes or isolation.
We also have – although rarely – such families who come to the hospice dressed in black, stand at the foot of the bed and ask, “How is mom? Ladies, we will call your mother and they will change the T-shirt, because the ladies know each other better. ”
M: If you haven’t held your mum’s or dad’s hand before – it happens that you fear this and during your illness. We help to make it familiar – with our entire team, also with psychologists – because in hospice care, the patient, his whole family and relatives are taken care of.
In: Father Jan said that “when you earn your whole life, that’s the way you do”, although there are also spectacular stories of reconciliation and reconciliation before leaving. People are realizing that this time is running out, so the approach is progressing rapidly.
This moment when – often with the support of psychological care – people who have not been close to each other embrace each other is so touching that it is impossible not to cry.
I remember a gentleman who divorced his sons, but somehow they found each other. His sons bought him a watch, which for this gentleman was such a proof of love that he only took him to wash, and then he had to keep an eye on him. Everything that separated them was forgotten. And we heard a lot of such endings of the story “a, because we have not been in contact with each other for 20 years”.
M: But there are also people for whom our hospice is a home where they experience closeness and love. Someone hugged them, obeyed. We become their family.
But you also take great care of your patients, remembering the enormous amount of details …
W: When someone says that they like a certain type of flower – sometimes babysitters or nurses remember it and pick it up for her on the way to work. Such a flower in a vase suddenly becomes so important. We also have a selection of perfumes for women on a special trolley, so that they have something to perfume.
Because hospice is also life. The tiniest things matter to us here.
W: We try to keep everything that is important to the patient – because the disease can really strip away everything. People say “why this west?”, After all this person is leaving. Meanwhile, what can give the patient great pleasure is inviting a barber and grooming the beard or dyeing the roots – these are miracles! We have ladies who come and do a manicure on a voluntary basis …
Małgosia is a master of detail with the rest: she remembers “there was a lipstick somewhere” that some lady loves and can dig through the entire wardrobe until she finds her and touches her lips with color.
M: I know that such a touch and care will give my patients great pleasure.
W: And all this gives us great joy and it is probably why we do not burn out.
M: It gives us great satisfaction when we see that the patient feels safe. When he is waiting for us with a smile.
And I heard the perverse and kind of offended “I’m not talking to you, you’ve been gone for three days!” – after your return from a well-deserved vacation!
In such! Happens too! And we know it’s for love! There is also such “chemistry” with patients. I remember a gentleman who came to us years ago with a tracheotomy tube which made him unable to speak. But we still “talked” because we adored each other. I remember once, when a co-patient who was lying with him in the room did not want to return the keys to the rooms – for some reason he insisted on burying them, the patient stood over him in the position of the sheriff and motioned to hand over the keys. And that’s it! – He showed with a gesture. And the patient gave it back. I remember when I tried to ask him where he was born and we reached the pantomime that in Hel, and I asked if it was cool to be brought up close to the sea and the beach.
It was a patient who felt so good with us that he could argue with me with gestures, or show me that I was talking nonsense.
One day he made an agreement with a volunteer and asked to be taken to a souvenir shop and he brought me a mug with the inscription “Hel” from there. I still have it today. Oh, I’m already crying.
Each of you has already seen over a thousand patients.
W: For twelve years – because we have been here from the beginning, when Father Jan was still here – yes, I think about a thousand.
M: But this “fastening in a bag”, this posthumous toilet is a special moment: we still call our patients “mister”, “madam” and by name – for example, “Mrs. Irenko”, “Mr. Tomasz”. We continue to inform them respectfully – as we always do – that, for example, we will turn them sideways, but gently. We address them directly – as always here, because we have such a culture of work that we do not discuss our private or business matters with Wiola, for example. We said goodbye to a thousand people each.
W: I say “goodbye” to each of them, so it will be a nice crowd when we meet there someday. For now, we are alive – and probably more deeply and more intensely than the others.
Do you think you see life differently than most people? For example, do you not consider things that others consider problems difficult?
M: Some values have changed for me, I know what is the most important in life: being with myself, not postponing things …
W: … not worrying about stupid things …
M:… little things, because there are things that are much more important that we appreciate.
W: I am not tied up by things that would make me crush a copy. And I don’t talk to people “from the world” about our work anymore, because I listened to so much “how you can stand there, I wouldn’t be able to, because I’m so sensitive!”. I am also sensitive and that is why I endure, but I no longer excuse the fact that yes, I work where people die – and I am happy.
Małgorzata Żalikowska photo. private archives
Małgorzata Żalikowska * – medical guardian. He has been working at Puck Hospice for over 12 years. Already in high school, she dreamed of a job where I could help other people. Thanks to her work in a hospice, she can make this dream come true. Working in a hospice is for her more than a job, it is a vocation in which she fulfills herself.
Wioletta Broniarz photo by Andrew Sipajlo
Wioletta Broniarz ** – medical guardian, occupational therapist. Every day she helps and looks after terminally ill people. It accompanies patients and their families in this difficult and, at the same time, particularly important moment of leaving. He has been working at Puck Hospice since 2009.