Dr. Hassan Ali and his wife Mervat were nearly 4,000 miles from home, attending a medical conference in Sweden. As Mervat recalls with a smile, it was then that she realized the impact her husband’s work was having on his peers around the world.
“After he gave his speech, some anesthesiologists came to him and told me, ‘Would you please step aside? We want to take a picture with Professor Hassan Ali, because he's so famous.’ I said ‘Oh my God, I didn't know that my husband is a movie star.’”
Maybe not a movie star that the average American would recognize, but in his field of anesthesia, Dr. Ali was world-renowned. Dr. Ali started in Egypt, where he met his wife, then moved to Liverpool, UK, and finally settled in Boston, where he worked at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School for more than 35 years. Dr. Ali developed a technique and device to measure and deliver muscle relaxants that, until then, had been an inexact science. The system was adopted worldwide. If you have gone under anesthesia over the past 40 years, odds are his work played a role in the process.
Married for over 50 years, he and Mervat have two sons, Omar and Hesham. He maintained a very busy professional life of clinical work, teaching, and lecturing around the world until his retirement in 2005.
Transitioning to Hospice
In 2015, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, which progressively deteriorated his cognitive and physical function. In 2020, as he moved into his late 80s, his health declined further and his doctors recommended the family call Care Dimensions for additional hospice support so they could care for him at home in Winchester.
“I think we had a misunderstanding of hospice and that it was really only for the final days,” said Omar. “But the care has been so good, he’s actually improved and has probably lived longer because of hospice. He’s had a couple of moments where it looked critical, and then he stabilized because of the hospice team caring for him.”
The Care Dimensions hospice team not only provides medical care and support, but also supplies medical equipment, like a hospital bed, oxygen, and a nebulizer to improve his breathing.
“Their goal really all the time is to make him very comfortable,” says Mervat. “They are always guiding us with the different medications and what to do when something happens to him and how to handle things. And they say ‘Call us anytime. We are here with you, 24 hours a day.’”
“It's not just the care” says Omar. “But everybody that's around the Care Dimensions professionals learns from them. They educate us all and they make us all better. It’s crystal clear that this is more than simply a job to everybody there.”
Omar says that a caring culture is evident from “top to bottom.” He is quick to name nurses like Karen Ames and Theresa Ellis, as well as aides Keila Arias, Kenny King and Moses Mugwanya. Among the words that come to mind when describing them, Mervat and Omar say: gentle, loving, caring and professional.
Care Comes Full Circle
The family can’t help but see that the type of care Dr. Ali had always provided his patients came back to him in return.
“When I was younger, I’d go and visit patients with him,” recalls Omar. “I used to see how he was with the patients: caring, holding their hands, and telling them ‘You have to have a positive attitude’. He did so much for others. And now in his time of need, we feel like it's almost not a coincidence that Care Dimensions would come into our lives and make him so comfortable.”
“People get scared from the word ‘hospice,”” says Mervat. “I say ‘no, don't worry, they will make your loved one comfortable at home.’
“I could never have cared for him at home without Care Dimensions.”
Dr. Ali passed away in August 2022, surrounded by family.
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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore, has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.