Emergency Plan for Cancer Patient Can Bring Caregiver Peace of Mind

Ambulance Leaving Hospital

Caregiving for a loved one with cancer is not easy, especially when the potential threat of an emergency is looming on the horizon.

When doctors diagnosed my husband, Brian, with pleural mesothelioma, they gave him a three- to nine-month prognosis. Although he was 52 at the time of diagnosis and outwardly appeared in good health, I began to fear he might die at any moment after the three-month mark.

At the time, one of my main concerns was that Brian suddenly would have trouble breathing. Would I know how to cope with this kind of emergency? I didn’t think I would.

After some online research on the cancer’s symptoms and facing my fears, which stemmed from a lack of understanding mesothelioma, I put together an emergency plan with important phone numbers, copies of Brian’s records and my own support network of friends and family.

My Emergency Plan

The emergency plan I put together included telephone numbers for:

  • Brian’s doctor
  • The medical emergency department
  • His hospital’s administration
  • Friends and family I could rely on for practical support

I also gathered his medical reports and imaging results, and kept them together in one accessible place so I could provide a medical team with any information they might need.

I also learned oxygen tanks and masks could be delivered to our home. Once I was shown how to operate the tanks, I could use the oxygen mask on Brian if an emergency arose. This was a huge relief, but there were other things I was concerned about.

What would he need at the hospital in case of an emergency?

I solved that by purchasing a small travel case he could take to the hospital with him. It included two pairs of pajamas, some underwear, toiletries, reading material and his spare set of glasses.

The bag also contained a list of all his medications, their dosages and any other information the nursing staff might have needed.

Building an Emergency Support System

Because any emergency Brian experienced would add stress to my responsibilities, I needed to put together an emergency support team.

At the time of Brian’s illness, we lived in the remote town of Exmouth, in the far northern part of Western Australia. The Exmouth hospital was not equipped to deal with Brian’s condition and we had to travel to Perth for any medical treatment.

If a medical emergency involved airlifting Brian to Perth, I would want to accompany him. That meant I had to find who I could rely on to look after our home and pets in our absence. I also had to determine who I could stay with in Perth, and who would be free to provide me with transportation to and from the hospital.

After discussing what I would need in an emergency situation with my family and friends, I was able to put together a list of names and numbers I could call in my time of need. I had these names on speed dial.

Emergency Plan Builds Peace of Mind

Brian survived for two years — well beyond his initial prognosis.

Caregiving for him during this period was physically and emotionally draining. Although it left me heartbroken, I did find peace knowing I had made a difference in the quality of Brian’s life.

I had truly supported him right up to the moment he died.

Having a well-developed emergency plan in place alleviated many of my concerns. I was able to concentrate on efforts to help Brian remain pain-free and able to enjoy his life to the best of his ability.

  1. Help for Cancer Caregivers. (n.d.) Emergency Preparedness. Retrieved from http://www.helpforcancercaregivers.org/content/emergency-preparedness

Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer. Her website can be found at www.lean-on-me.net

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