Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A New Focus on Easing the Pain - washingtonpost.com

A New Focus on Easing the Pain
Palliative Care Helps The Very Ill. It May Also Keep Costs Down.

David Thibault grows orchids as a hobby, but the elegant flower on his bedside tray did little to lift his spirits. He stared out the window of his room at George Washington University Hospital, waiting for lab results that could tell him if he had months, weeks or maybe only days to live.

A month earlier, in April, Thibault and his wife, Judy Thibault Klevins, had been preparing for a trip to Japan when he felt pain that was different from the pain he had long experienced from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel ailment. It turned out to be small-bowel cancer. If the disease weren't so rare, he now ventured aloud, maybe more research money would have gone into it, maybe he wouldn't be facing death at age 67.

Joan Panke, a nurse practitioner, listened intently. The coordinator of GW's Palliative Care Service, Panke and her team ease the pain of those with serious or terminal illness. They walk families like the Thibaults through the difficult work of understanding options, making decisions and, sometimes, trying to find a measure of peace as they say goodbye.


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