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Caregivers play an important role in supporting their loved ones. For Marivic, our palliative nurse at Sengkang Community Hospital, being miles apart with her dying father did not stop her from caring him till the end of his life.

The ringtone woke her up.

Glancing at the clock on the wall, Marivic realised that it was 5.30am. Everything was still dark save the light from her mobile phone. It was a video call from home – Philippines.

Padding to the living room to avoid waking up her roommate, Marivic began to answer the video call.

She saw a panicked expression on her eldest sister who was living with her parents in the Philippines.

"Why is father not breathing normally? Why is he gasping for air?" asked her eldest sister as she sobbed. Marivic could see their ailing father behind her sister.

Beneath her calm demeanor, Marivic’s heart sank; his condition reminded her of her palliative patients.

It began to dawn upon her that this could be the last time she would be able to see her father.

The Good Old Days
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

But for Staff Nurse De Guzman Marivic Bulawit from Sengkang Community Hospital (SKCH), being apart from her sick father was heavy and unsettling.

The COVID-19 pandemic had prevented her from returning back to her hometown in the province of Bulacan to care for her father who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

"It was emotionally stressful for me as I was only able to care for him virtually and not by his side," shared Marivic.

She remembers her father as someone who was hardworking.

To make ends meet, he used to work as a truck driver in the city of Manila and only returned home on weekends.

Even though they were young, Marivic and her siblings understood that sacrifices had to be made in order for the family to survive, and valued the precious weekends that they could spend with him.

When her father retired 40 years later, he continued to provide for the family as a street peddler selling various types of meat and vegetables with the help of her mother.

He was also a loving father who doted on all of his five children.

On a daily basis, he would accompany Marivic to and fro home along a narrow soiled footpath for her to take the transport to work at the main road.

It was during the 15 minutes’ walk that Marivic and her father would talk about everything under the sun - from work to family and down to their favourite food.

Life was simple back then, fun and full of laughter.

That is how she remembers it to be.

Caring As a Patient
When her father fell ill last year, Marivic could only care for him virtually, connecting with her family every day via Facebook messenger video call which would last between 15 minutes to 2 hours.

It was her father’s wish to undergo home care, only going to the hospital when his pain was unbearable.

With three years of experience as a palliative nurse, Marivic cared for her father like how she cared for her patients and their loved ones in the wards.

She would also help her family by giving advise, making decisions regarding her father’s health and communicating with his doctor on medication to ease her father’s pain.

She was also their listening ear whenever her family need to allay their anxiety.

"I provide care for my patients in the wards as though they are my family. It was almost unreal how I could only take care of my own father through the phone, but we did everything we can to ensure he received the proper care and comfort during his last stage of life," said Marivic.

Being a palliative nurse, Marivic knew the pain that he father had to go through and have to explain the changes in her father’s condition to her family.

Juggling between her father’s illness, work and the pandemic had taken a physical and psychological toll on Marivic.

But her love for him was beyond words, and she continued to call in daily to check on her father. After all, he had made so many sacrifices and contributed much to her life when she was young.

This was the least that she can do.

Five months later, at the age of 66, her father passed away peacefully at home.

She knew that it was time for him to go when she received the call from her eldest sister that morning.

"I wanted my father to know how much I appreciate him by caring for him even though we were miles apart.

I love him more than ever he can imagine," said Marivic.