“Seeing Dad suffer the way he did has motivated me to do something to help others who have pulmonary fibrosis so in the future they won’t have to go through what we did.”
Sandeep spearheaded the launch of the 50th pulmonary fibrosis support group at Northwick Park Hospital in memory of her father who suffered from IPF. Sandeep is a pharmacist at the hospital.
When I found out I had achieved a 2:1 Masters degree in pharmacy my Dad was thrilled. He planted a great big kiss on my forehead and celebrated the rest of the evening. Dad was a great advocate of education and wanted nothing more than to see me and my two brothers settle down and to enjoy the company of grandchildren. I went on to further my career in hospital pharmacy simply because I enjoyed the challenge but now in hindsight I believe it helped me to cope with what we went through as a family when Dad was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. This condition took a piece of him. The strong Dad who was always a pillar of strength became increasingly weak and the suffering became difficult to watch. And yet despite the challenges he was still a supportive husband, a devoted Dad and father-in-law and a loving Grandfather.
Dad had semi-retired, feeling optimistic that he had some healthy years ahead of him. He was green fingered and often talked, proudly, about his gardening to friends at work. He once said to my Mum “We have three lovely children, a beautiful garden and a sweet granddaughter – what more could I want”. Dad was genuinely grateful for all that life had given him. He regularly picked up his granddaughter from nursery and was frequently sweet talked into going to the park on the way home. He enjoyed family meals at home, birthday dinners and excuses to celebrate. Our fridge remains covered in pictures of Mum and Dad holding their granddaughter.
Mum too was a motivated lady who worked part-time at the local supermarket and later retired. She dabbled in the garden, enjoyed looking after the home and took care of my niece so that my sister-in-law could go back to work. She was a talented seamstress and I was fortunate enough to grow up wearing some of the loveliest dresses.
The experience we had as a family is difficult to put down into a few words or lines and may even prove difficult to read, but the thing that we all struggled with was the lack of awareness of Pulmonary Fibrosis. Dad was frequently admitted to hospital with chest infections and while we did come across some exceptionally caring nursing and healthcare staff we did find that very few understood his condition or appreciate his anxiety to be at home. There was a lack of empathy for why he would turn up the oxygen level on the concentrator or why he needed the morphine.
Scientifically speaking I know it can be argued that he needed none of these things but he was a person just like you and me and having that feeling that you just can’t breathe is enough to frighten even the strongest of people.
Dad started to become seriously ill in December 2015, but earlier that year Mum had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. Initially she was responding to treatment very well and we felt reasonably positive that she would potentially live a normal life expectancy. Mum was a “tall’ lady who embraced life’s challenges. When Dad needed around the clock care, Mum did not hesitate. My younger brother often refers to Mum and Dad as superheroes and I honestly cannot find a better description for them. While Dad was at war with himself for needing my Mum’s care, Mum was busy thinking of ways to make my Dad’s life better. My Mum cried on 14th April 2016 because she knew that this would be their last wedding anniversary. Dad responded by saying “I haven’t gone anywhere yet, I’m still here”. Dad took his last breath on 4th May 2016. Mum took her last breath on 18th October 2016.
I am privileged to say that I am the daughter of Late Mr Jagjit Singh Bansal and Late Mrs Sawinder Kaur Bansal. We are a Punjabi Sikh family who believe in sharing the good times as well as the sad times.