“More like a friend than a doctor”

“I have had many struggles. There are times when I cannot speak up about those difficulties. But now I am able to live with the help of those around me, and Iyashi Care makes me feel at ease.”

Emi first learned of Iyashi Care at the end of January 2019 when her late husband Bill suddenly suffered heart failure. “I don’t speak English well and my husband doesn’t understand Japanese. I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’” She came across an advertisement in a Japanese newspaper where she saw the words “Japanese-speaking Iyashi Care team.” When she saw it, Emi “called immediately, thinking this may be a good place to ask for help.”

Emi and her husband lived in Seattle, Washington for many years. But as the couple aged and with no children, they decided to move to South Bay, where Bill’s brother lived, more than a decade ago.

According to Emi, Bill developed health conditions after they moved. “He was seeing a urologist for prostate treatment and also had issues with his throat. But the doctors told us it was too risky to have surgery, so we just left it at that. He took a lot of medications.” After Bill suffered heart failure, he was in and out of the hospital from April 2019 on.

Dr. Yuichi Edwin Yanami and Kanako Fukuyama with a patient

Heartful support

As Bill’s primary caregiver, Emi shared that the support from the Iyashi Care team was a continuous source of reassurance.  “Dr. Yanami (lead physician) speaks both Japanese and English, so he helped me with many things. He came to see us at least once a month and helped us each time we called him, especially when things were bad. Kanako (social worker), Joshua (nurse), and Miho (administrative assistant) also called us frequently to check up on us, asking, ‘Are you okay? How are you?’”

As Bill’s condition progressed and as his breathing and eating became more difficult, he requested to be hospitalized and was admitted to Torrance Memorial Hospital for about a month.

“While my husband was hospitalized, he was walking and exercising, and he was telling me how he was feeling much better and could go home. But he was getting weaker…” Emi said sadly. To make sure Bill’s wish of “being at home for his last moments” was prioritized and fulfilled, the Iyashi Care team assisted them with a thorough transition to a hospice program administered at home. “We were able to spend the last two days together at our home.” Looking back at the process, Emi recalled, “It was very helpful. Dr. Yanami came to see us again just the same night my husband came home. The Iyashi Care team was always available for us and I am grateful.”

Peace of mind knowing that you’re supported, no matter what

Emi also has a chronic illness herself. Sometimes, when she experiences nervousness, she has blood in her urine and has stomach pain that prevents her from eating properly. Because of these health concerns and her feelings of loneliness after becoming widowed, Emi decided to enroll herself in Iyashi Care after Bill’s death.

“I feel secure even if something happens. For example, if I fall down while trying to stand up after squatting, I call Dr. Yanami because I can’t get an appointment at a doctor’s office right away. He would ask me about my conditions and tell me, ‘You will be okay.’ Of course, I will have to go to the emergency room when it’s bad. He tells me to call him whenever I have a problem. Although he used to come visit me before the pandemic, I’m thankful that he calls me once a month,” Emi shared. In addition, when she has concerns about her pre-existing medical condition, Emi said it is helpful that the team discusses with her trustee, as well as her, on what to do going forward. Although visits are currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Emi repeatedly expressed her gratitude, saying, “It’s reassuring that the Iyashi Care team tells me they will come visit in the most serious situations. I am grateful.”

“Dr. Yanami talks to me more like a friend than a doctor, and I heard many people say, ‘I got cured when I saw that doctor’s face.’ I can ask and tell him anything, including saying things that I shouldn’t. He treats me very well, like a real friend. Of course, he does also talk to me as a doctor and asks me about my conditions, but there is a lot of small talk too. Dr. Yanami even sang a Japanese song and played the shamisen to me recently because he thought I was grieving alone. It’s comforting,” recalled Emi, her voice slightly trembling.

For Emi, the Iyashi Care team not only alleviates her health concerns, but also provides a powerful means of support for both her mental and physical wellbeing, providing ‘iyashi’ or healing.

*Names have been changed with the request of the patient.


Read more about Iyashi Care
Take the Iyashi Care Assessment Here
日本語版の記事はこちら

Other Iyashi Care Stories:
“The Most Important Thing Is I Feel Secure Now”: Tales of Service and Support From an Iyashi Care Patient
The Team that Listened to Me, My Mother, and Our Needs

Other Articles and Resources:
Intro to Palliative Care
Palliative Care Resources
Iyashi Care FAQ