The Morphine Smile

Categories: Care.

Despite the fear most health care providers have towards the use of morphine in the relief of severe pain among patients with terminal illnesses, those who have embraced its use can attest the help it is giving patients with chronic pain.

Such testimony is hereby given from a patient and her carer with the patient’s request for anonymity taken into consideration.

JN (not initials of her name) was diagnosed with carcinoma of the breast in July 2011, a condition that left her wondering if she could make it in life any longer as per her life expectation.

She was admitted at Thika Level 5 Hospital for seven days, having been referred from a health center when they suspected that she could be having a tumor.

Under the great care of Ann Muthoni, a palliative care nurse at Thika Palliative Care Unit (PCU), JN has seen what palliative care can do to a patient who imagines cancer is a death sentence.

“When I started taking care of her, she was in great pain with an extensive wound, which had intolerable odour, oozing pus and it occasionally bled.  I cleaned and dressed the wound with flagyl to prevent infection and control the bleeding and reduce the oozing pus.” Muthoni says.

She says that JN underwent a blood transfusion recently before commencing her chemotherapy at Kenyatta national hospital, which is supposed to last for 6months.

“I always encouraged her to fight on with courage and that a smile would take her a long way in her fight against carcinoma.” Muthoni says

“I started her on Dihydrocodein (df 118) to relief pain. With time, I noted that the pain was surpassing the drug forcing me to climb the ladder and start administering syrup morphine.” She narrates

Muthoni says she is grateful to Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) for their drug donation that has helped patients under her watch get proper pain management.

“My life would have gone a long time ago had it not been for the morphine,” JN says with a smile adding that the care she receives at the facility has always given her hope to continue living each single day to the maximum.

“I can now eat, walk straight and sleep.” She says with a smile that was rare to come by before she was put on syrup morphine.

Muthoni says the wound has improved greatly registering up to 60% recovery. “It is clean, without smell and granulation is taking place.” She added

She says that she is happy to see her patient smile once again. She adds that whenever her patient comes across patients with a similar condition like hers, she refers them to either Kenyatta PCU or Thika PCU.

“She has so far referred two patients to our PCU and we are attending to their requirements as is required of us.” Muthoni says.

Muthoni appreciated the effort KEHPCA is putting in to help them acquire the necessary medication for palliative care especially morphine whose access is still a challenge.

She says this support has quite effectively trickled down to the very needy patients in need of palliative care through their hands.