PETALING JAYA: Watching a young child fight a terminal disease until their last breath is an experience few would ever wish to go through, but for nurses at the Paediatric Dialysis Unit of Ward 9C, Hospital Tunku Azizah (HTA) in Kuala Lumpur, it was their reality just three short years ago.
Nor Fatin Zarifah Mohamad Khairudin, 36, did not expect her and her fellow nurses’ final moments with chronic kidney patient Zarif Azri Zakuan, who died in 2020 at the age of 12, to capture the attention of netizens the way it has after his mother recently shared the story of their last meeting online.
Despite having no blood ties to the late Zarif, Fatin was moved nonetheless by the child’s bravery in the face of illness.
“When he went home for the last time, I wondered if we would ever meet again. We could only pray that he held on a little longer. It was sad because we knew there was only so much the doctors could do, so all we could hope for was to see him again,” she said.
Fatin’s colleague, Azlina Abu Bakar, 43, said it is natural for the death of a patient to take an emotional and mental toll on the nurses who had treated them, and Zarif’s passing was no different.
“We see these patients every day – treating them, taking care of them, talking to them, holding them. So, to some extent, we also feel that loss,” she said.
“Every time we look at the spaces our patients used to occupy, we think of them.”
Challenges as a nurse
Wan Zuraini Wan Abdullah, 51, the ward’s head nurse, said they strive to provide the best service possible despite long hours and staff shortages.
Nurses must not only manage patients’ emotions, but also their parents’, she said.
“It is difficult for any parent to accept the reality (of their children’s condition).
“There comes a point where the nurses and doctors would start to share their feelings of sadness, but we still try to build relationships with them through words of encouragement and assurances their child is in heaven,” she said.
In February, Zarif’s mother, Anna Mahiza Md Kassim, shared a video of her ill son’s final moments with his nurses before returning home, where he died nine days later.
When contacted, Anna said the social media post was meant as a gesture of gratitude to all the nurses who had given their all to care for her child.
“From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for providing Zarif with the best care possible. We are grateful for their dedication to and exceptional care of Zarif and other patients,” she said.