Tahira Alarakhia, R.N. - Calgary, Canada


I had the privilege of working as an RN at the Rotary Flames House hospice and respite in Calgary for 4 years and it changed my life in many ways. There are so many stories that I could share that have touched my heart deeply, but the one that stands out the most for me was when I was caring for a young girl named Danika (pseudonym). This girl was only 4 years old when I first cared for her at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.


Her parents were not involved in her care and owing to her complex medical needs, the healthcare professionals who cared for her had become her family. Danika had a rare chromosomal abnormality that caused untreatable lesions on her lungs.  She would have terrible periods of dyspnea and would have so much mucus built up in her lungs that she could barely get any air in at times. She eventually declined to the point where she was declared palliative by her doctors who worked tirelessly to try to find a cure for her rare disease.


This is when she was transferred to the Rotary Flames House, where I had recently started work a couple of months earlier, and we would meet again. When I found out that Danika was to be admitted, it broke my heart. I was always hopeful that they would find a cure for her and that she would eventually get better and be the healthy, happy, active girl who I met almost 2 years prior.


When she was transferred over, she was so weak and her skin was blue in colour. Her family had come back into her life at this point and they were heartbroken to see her in this state. Danika’s grandma explained to me that she was the main caregiver for Danika but because of financial struggles, she was unable to provide Danika with the complex care she required.


Over the next few months, Danika’s family spent every minute at her side, loving and caring for her. Unfortunately after a long painful battle, Danika passed away with her family at her side. I was not at work that day, but her grandma asked if the staff could call me so that I could be with them during this time.


When I got the call, I was worried about how I would be able to stay strong for the family when I felt so connected to Danika myself. When I came in and saw her, she had the most beautiful smile on her face – I will never forget that moment. There was no way I could be sad because all I could think about was that this brave, amazing little girl was no longer in pain and the calm on her face seemed to spread to everyone around her.


I learned in that moment that death is not always something to be feared. In the case of Danika, she touched so many lives in the short time she was here and now this sweet angel was truly at peace.


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