I work at the children’s hospital, which is part of Vilnius University Hospital Santaros Klinikos and the largest children’s hospital in Lithuania. My field of interest is chronic pain treatment and palliative care of children. I’m an anaesthesiologist and have worked with children all my professional life. Currently, I run the first Children’s Pain and Palliative Care Clinic in Lithuania.
Several years ago, our hospital started to see an increase in the number of children with complex diseases, some of whom needed long-term ventilation. At that time, these patients were treated in the intensive care unit and their care was entrusted to me. Given my anaesthesiology background, I took on this responsibility with great enthusiasm. Yet, getting involved in the process exposed me to problems and challenges that I had never thought about before. For instance, in Lithuania at that time there were no hospitals providing palliative care for children, and no doctors specialising in children’s palliative care. This situation made me understand the hardship and challenges that the parents of such children had to go through and led to my interest in palliative care. I later joined the Lithuanian Palliative Medicine Association and became a board member.
Seeing limited knowledge of palliative medicine among my colleagues, as well as the need for palliative care services for children in Lithuania, I began to share information about children’s palliative care with my colleagues and university students. With the help and support of my hospital’s administration, I founded the Children’s Pain and Palliative Care Clinic (ChPPCC) in 2015. Currently, ChPPCC patients are the children suffering from the most serious childhood diseases – congenital, acquired and genetic.
I am often asked how difficult it is to do this work: seeing children with such great disabilities and the suffering of their mothers as they take care of them every day without a break. I think that mothers who raise such children are sometimes even more positive than mothers who raise healthy children. One little step, or an improvement in their child’s health, such as a finger movement or a smile, give them lots of positive emotions and joy. I too am happy when I see the smiling faces of my patients and their parents. I believe that palliative care can make a real difference to the lives of children with life-limiting illnesses, as well as their families. And so it is my wish and aspiration that everybody who needs palliative care should have access to it.
It would be a great honour, if elected to the board, to contribute to the EAPC as well as to collaborate with palliative care specialists from all over Europe. I believe that a greater engagement with EAPC in Lithuania and other Eastern European countries could help to enhance the progress of palliative care and to reduce the disparity in palliative care practices in different regions.
In my free time, I like being with my family and friends, travelling, going for long walks in the forest, and gardening – these help me to relax and inspire me to continue my work in palliative care.