An insight into GP, Peter Cole that broke the news to Kristy and Sok about Ka'ili having a rare cancer.

Consultations like the one we had at the start are fortunately very rare (when it comes to kids at least) and I hope that this is a once in career experience for me. We regularly have to break bad news but obviously its much harder and emotional when children are the patients. There are so many things about Ka'ili's diagnosis that stand out to me.

On the day Sok came in to see me  my intuition told me that this was more than an UTI and that I should assess  Kaili comprehensively. When I felt the mass, my heart sank. I tried to remain calm and not let anything on to Sok. As soon as he left, I was straight into my colleague's room to "debrief".  I was also then subtly trying to ensure that Sok did book the scan and remember asking the imaging place to bulk bill the scan as I feared that bad news was coming.

The next morning I was in theatre and usually my phone was on silent. That day I asked one of the theatre staff to hold my phone as I was expecting a call. And then it came. I was supposed to be in theatre all day but we finished early that day - what a blessing. I could give you the news ASAP, as horrible as it was. Before giving the news, I called the paediatrician on call to discuss the options. She was keen to send Ka'ili to Canberra as Wilms Tumors can be very dangerous.

Finally, how to let Kristy and Sok know. We know that as soon as parents get a call you assume the worst. So the challenge is to leave it as late as possible but still give them a chance to sort out the logistics. We have some amazing receptionists who worked out that calling them at lunch was probably the best option.

I will never forget telling them that news..... I knew that I was turning their lives upside down. It's a terrible thing to have to do but as I say I feel very proud and humbled by my job at times. The news was that Ka'ili more than likely had a mass that may be cancer and they needed to go home and pack their bags for at least 2 weeks. It was heart wrenching to see their reaction as Kristy asked, "Is she going to be alright? Is she going to die?"  I shrugged and said, "You need to get there as soon as you can and be prepared for the worst." 

Breaking this news is a challenge and having younger kids myself its hard not to get upset but if these things didn’t affect you then I guess that would not be normal. We are trained for moments like these and I just focussed on doing the best job I could do in the situation and to make sure I could give her family as clear a plan as possible.

The Giteau-Tai family will all remain close to our hearts at the practice. It's been a real privilege to help them on their journey by being a GP to lean on, chat things through, fill out forms / medical certificates or just being their advocate which is really what it is all about.

 

Let's hope the next chapter is less exciting for them....

Dr. Peter Cole

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