BELHospice's silent heroes

Dr Ivona

The number of COVID-19 cases is rapidly increasing in Serbia, which is why not only patients with chronic illnesses but also a great number of cancer patients are at risk. The mission of BELhospice’s multidisciplinary team is to provide support and encouragement to cancer patients in these difficult times and solve concerns of those who are lacking adequate information. Our Dr Ivona Jankovic is always prepared for this:

“It is hard for everyone, both for patients and their families and for us, doctors. Therefore, the conversations that we have with everyone who calls us are extremely valuable. People usually ask us to interpret their discharge lists, modify their treatments, interpret test results that they do not understand as their doctors had no time to explain before sending them into isolation. We must also identify urgent cases so that people can respond in a timely manner. We are here to help everyone on a psychological level as well as on a practical level. Some are suffering from inadequate treatment for pain relief, which is the worst for us to see. Despite this, we make sure they know that we are here for them, for any advice or help they might need. Most importantly, they should not be afraid as we will do everything we can to help them get through this critical period.”


Dr Miljana Damnjanovic

Ever since the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has been officially declared, the entire team of the BELhospice centre for palliative care has been on a very serious mission to help those who are the most vulnerable – patients suffering from cancer and their families. Dr Miljana reveals what all patients who got in touch with the BELhospice team so far are facing.

“Feelings of hopelessness and fear are prevalent among everyone who has contacted us in this situation. We are mostly talking about patients who have been dismissed and sent to a home quarantine without any further information, leaving them without adequate help. We provide them with guidance, we help them adapt their treatments, especially those related to pain, which is their biggest trouble. Furthermore, we advise them how to handle feelings of suffocation and panic that overwhelm them, which is why our social worker and psychologist get involved to for support. Many are outraged, angry and upset because they have been left to fend for themselves. As a doctor I feel devastated and their suffering makes me sad. My message to everyone is that they are not alone, that we are always available for them, and that they need to adhere to isolation and prescribed measures. Also, not to panic as that may worsen their state. We will not give up and we will do everything in our power to help” , says Dr Damnjanovic.

 


Psychologist Miljana Filipović

As the number of those infected with COVID-19 is increasing over time, members of the BELhospice multidisciplinary team have the even more important task of helping the most vulnerable, cancer patients lacking adequate information as well as their family members. Our psychologist, Miljana Filipovic, explains their biggest concerns:

“Family members of cancer patients turn to us more and more often for help, since we opened the hotlines enabling them to contact us with all their concerns. The first step is to calm them down, to confirm that we are here for them and that they should not be afraid. The fact that we are available for them and that they know they have someone to rely on has a very positive effect. The tension immediately subsides… We get calls from families with young children asking us how they should explain the situation to children, or what to do since they can’t visit their close ones who are seriously ill to say their goodbyes. Difficult questions and dilemmas come up and we do our best do find the best way to help. We provide simple advice to everyone on ways to relax, to spend time on neglected hobbies and relationships with others. The most important thing is to stay calm and to avoid the general confusion and panic, as much as possible. We are here to listen and help as much as we can.”    


Bane and Vesna

During the isolation period of battling with COVID-19, the BELhospice team, our Bane and Vesna, are helping cancer patients in critical conditions receive mobile beds and supplies. This kind of support means a lot to cancer patients and their family members!

 


Carer Vladana Caric

Cancer patients and their families, even though seriously concerned being the most vulnerable group, are far more disciplined in respecting prescribed measures during the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) than other citizens. The BELhospice multidisciplinary team witnesses this daily, including our carer, Vladana Caric:  

"Since the public transport is not working, our team members visit some of the beneficiaries of BELhospice services who live on the same municipality and deliver to them things they need. Knowing that they are not alone, positivity and the opportunity to speak to someone means a lot to them. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, they were most worried about how everything would work when it came to these basic needs. However, they then realised we are still here for them, so they feel slightly better. It is very important that we all remain positive, disciplined and that we respect the prescribed measures, in order to protect ourselves as well as those around us."


A patient’s email to our nurse Bojana:

“Dear Bojana,

The loss of a close one to an incurable illness is a hard blow for the whole family. The feeling of helplessness and fear can paralyze us and make us not know what to do…At times like these, just knowing that there is an organisation whose sole purpose is to help is of immense solace and support. Thank you for all your professional help, your equipment, care, advice and most importantly for the kind words that meant a lot to Dad and to all of us. Thank you Bojana, thank you Dr Ivona, as well as all the other team members who were there for us. I hope that your organisation will grow and have the adequate conditions to help all those who need palliative care.“