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Personal Stories About Palliative Care

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

Martha, age 91: I have been in and out of the hospital for serious heart and breathing problems for many months. I feel like my heart is not going to last much longer. I talked about this with the palliative care doctor who came to visit me. She told me about hospice care and how I could be cared for at home and not keep going to the hospital. That sure sounded good to me. She also helped me fill out a form called a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR). It gives me peace of mind to know that nobody is going to try to bring me back to life when my time has come.

Rachel, age 22: After having chemotherapy and radiation treatments for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, I was in remission and thought I was finally going to be okay. But then I got an infection, and my immune system couldn't handle it. Soon I was in terrible pain. When I was moved into a palliative care unit in a hospital, I thought it was because I was dying. But eventually with treatment my pain went away and I was able to go back to living a normal life. My palliative care doctor and her medical team were amazing. They did so much more for me than just give me medicine—they visited me, read to me, shared music, and even taught me guided imagery. Most of all, they gave me hope.

Jorge, age 29: Our 14-month-old son was diagnosed with leukemia a few months ago. After receiving treatment, he got a bad fungal infection. He has been in the hospital intensive care unit for several weeks. We had a family meeting with our primary care doctor, a surgeon, an oncologist, a social worker, and a palliative care doctor. There are no great treatment options for our son. But we are determined to do everything we can to help him survive. The palliative care doctor talked to us about what we might do if we think all the treatment and surgeries are too much for our son to handle. We are not ready to think about that, but it is nice to know that she can help us if we do come to that decision.

Fashawn, age 32: My palliative care provider, Christy, has been coming around a lot. I've got really bad cervical cancer, and she is helping me feel better. I'm in a lot of pain, and she is giving me medicines for that. I'm also having a hard time accepting that the cancer is as bad as it is. I know she is trying to help me to feel less angry about things, but it is really hard, especially since I've got so many problems with my family. I guess I might have to start telling them how I am doing and see if I can fix our relationships. I'm thankful that Christy can help me do that.

Dennis, age 77: I did not know why I was in the hospital. Nobody was telling me what was wrong. A new doctor, called a palliative care doctor, came to see me. He explained that I was weak from not eating enough and from drinking too much beer. Finally someone was talking to me straight. He also talked to me about how my mind was starting to go. We made a plan that I would go to a rehab facility to see if I could get my legs working again. Then he called my two daughters to talk to them about me. They are the ones who are going to decide what happens to me if my mind really starts to go. I'm glad to know that we are all on the same page.

By Healthwise Staff
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
Last Revised December 29, 2011

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