Care-giving can make all the difference. A World Hospice and Palliative Care Day special on a volunteers’ group in Delhi
It was October 4 last year. Deepak Behera, a rickshaw-puller in the Delhi University area, lay in great pain with a swollen mouth and an unpleasant smell emanating from what looked like a wound. A good Samaritan informed the voluntary Delhites’ National Initiative in Palliative Care (DNipCare) about him. Its volunteers rushed to the spot and admitted Deepak to a hospital. It was later found that he was suffering from mouth cancer.
Having run away from his village in Maharashtra at the age of just 18 following a quarrel at home, Deepak today has none to call his own except the volunteers of DNipCare. Now undergoing treatment at the Delhi State Cancer Institute, he stays in a dharamshala near the hospital as he is required to be admitted in the hospital on and off for chemotherapy sessions. All his expenses for medicine (which are not provided by the hospital) and food, stay and other requirements are met by this voluntary body.
The second Saturday of October that fell on October 6 this year is marked as World Hospice and Palliative Care Day.
Rekha is just 10 years old and is suffering from Ewing’s sarcoma. Reduced to almost bones, she has already lost vision in one eye and is now undergoing chemotherapy treatment. Will she survive? Rekha’s parents are not sure.
Her mother is ever worried about her other three children whom she and her husband left behind in their village in Bihar with their relatives. Not sure how long they will have to stay in Delhi, she wants to get back as soon as possible. Rekha’s father is a labourer with severely limited income. DNipCare has come to the family’s aid by not only providing for Rekha’s needs, including medicines, the group also provides rations to the family.
According to DNipCare’s general secretary K.V. Hamza, their primary effort is to provide emotional support to the terminally or long-term bed-ridden patients to bring them “out of their cocoon”; counselling of the patient and their family members comes next along with family integration and social and medical support. They work on four planks: patient care, rehabilitation, awareness generation and network creation.
The inspiration to start such a mission, says Mr. Hamza, came from a feature he had read on palliative care in 2008. He started the NGO initially with a dedicated team of 45 volunteers who were well established in their careers but wanted to join hands in this endeavour. Today, there are around 150 committed volunteers from all walks of life — professionals, students and housewives — taking care of the terminally ill or bed-ridden patients at home and in hospitals.
They visit patients on weekends and other public holidays and whenever necessary provide them assistance from rations to urine bags, medicines and arranging for nursing facilities as well.
Seema Prasad is one of them. A young housewife with an eight-year-old son to take care of, she is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from IGNOU. She takes time off her household duties every Saturday and Sunday to work with the patients. Her mother had died of cancer and Seema understands the pain the patients and their families go through. She has no inhibition in dressing the bed sores of the patients and her healing touch helps the patients regain their confidence and strength.
What is different about this group of dedicated people is that they not only give their time but also provide a human touch through personal visits and try and share the pain and suffering of these patients, help them overcome their fears, bring cheerful moments to their lives and smiles on their faces.