A South African paediatrician’s insights have attracted much attention on Twitter this weekend. Dr Alastair McAlpine asked some of his terminal paediatric palliative care patients what they had enjoyed in life, and what gave it meaning. As listed on his Twitter page, here are some of the responses:
First: NONE said they wished they’d watched more TV. None said they should’ve spent more time on Facebook. None said they enjoyed fighting with others. None enjoyed hospital.
Many mentioned their pets: ‘I love Rufus, his funny bark makes me laugh.’
‘I love when Ginny snuggles up to me at night and purrs’.
‘I was happiest riding Jake on the beach.’
Many mentioned their parents, often expressing worry or concern: ‘Hope mum will be ok. She seems sad.’
‘Dad mustn’t worry. He’ll see me again soon.’
‘God will take care of my mum and dad when I’m gone’.
All of them loved ice-cream.
All of them loved books or being told stories, especially by their parents: ‘Harry Potter made me feel brave.’
‘I love stories in space!’
‘I want to be a great detective like Sherlock Holmes when I’m better!’
“Folks, read to your kids! They love it,” said Dr Alastair.
Many of Dr Alastair’s young patients wished they had spent less time worrying about what others thought of them, and valued people who just treated them ‘normally’.
‘My real friends didn’t care when my hair fell out.’
‘Jane came to visit after the surgery and didn’t even notice the scar!’
Many of them loved swimming, and the beach. ‘I made big sandcastles!’
‘Being in the sea with the waves was so exciting! My eyes didn’t even hurt!’
Almost ALL of them valued kindness above most other virtues: ‘My granny is so kind to me. She always makes me smile.’
‘Jonny gave me half his sandwich when I didn’t eat mine. That was nice.’
‘I like it when that kind nurse is here. She’s gentle. And it hurts less’.
Almost ALL of them loved people who made them laugh: ‘That magician is so silly! His pants fell down and I couldn’t stop laughing!’
‘My daddy pulls funny faces which I just love!’
‘The boy in the next bed farted! Hahaha!’
Laughter relieves pain.
Kids love their toys, and their superheroes.
‘My Princess Sophia doll is my favourite!’ ‘I love Batman!’ (All the boys love Batman).
‘I like cuddling my teddy.’
Finally, they ALL valued time with their family. Nothing was more important.
‘Mum and dad are the best!’
‘My sister always hugs me tight’
‘No one loves me like mummy loves me!’
“Take home message: Be kind. Read more books. Spend time with your family. Crack jokes. Go to the beach. Hug your dog. Tell that special person you love them. These are the things these kids wished they could’ve done more. The rest is details. Oh… and eat ice-cream,” writes Dr Alastair.
The doctor later tweeted why terminal or very sick kids like ice-cream so much.
A few reasons, he says.
a) the cold helps with the mucositis (inflammation of the mouth and gut from chemo)
b) sugar raises the pain threshold
c) ice cream is just awesome.