During his last months in palliative care, Hussain Uqaili liked to quip that he wasn’t a patient but a guest, and that Credit Valley Hospital was really a hotel – “I even have room service!” he would tell his son, Sharjeel.
Sharjeel realized that the joking was just a way for his father to stay cheerful. While Hussain mused about being on vacation, he understood the prognosis of his disease, ALS. “Right from the get go, he was told there was no cure, no way out of this,” says Sharjeel.
Hussain was a mechanical engineer by profession, a “commanding” presence, as Sharjeel describes. He was used to running big projects, and seeing structures take shape under his direction. With his body failing him, Hussain was vulnerable as never before. Yet he remained extremely grateful for the care he received and – this was important, says Sharjeel – for the respect with which he was treated: “The staff took really good care of him.”
Until 10 days before his death at age 67, in March 2012, Hussain could still talk, and he remained fully aware. “He knew he was gong to die, but he didn’t want to give up to the last moment,” Sharjeel says.
Learning about his father’s ALS two years earlier was shocking for the family, but then acceptance comes. “You make the best of the situation,” says Sharjeel. “The end isn’t what anyone would like. But as grim as it is, dying is something that everyone has to go through.”
Credit Valley may not be a hotel, and palliative care is no holiday. Yet Sharjeel is warmed by the comfort his father experienced during his last journey. “The support from the hospital was tremendous,” he says, “and the way they treated him was amazing.”
Photo: Hussain pictured with his extended family