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Shelter when darkness comes

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EASE A PAINFUL END: Inside a ward.
EASE A PAINFUL END: Inside a ward.

BETTY KURIYAN

A hospice in Kochi helps terminally ill cancer patients face their future without fear.

A NARROW road twists and turns through the busy streets of Palluruthy eastward bound. A turn to the right and we're on the Perumpadapu road. Far from the madding crowd are the serene green grounds with a stark simple board " Holy Cross Hospice."The gates are open; the ambience is a quietness that envelops your aural senses. It takes a while to adjust to the silence used as you are to the blare of horns and traffic.

Simple logo

The well-maintained wide garden has a simple logo MCH on the granite upright - a white-robed faceless figure reaching out to a fallen human being.The quietness of the multi-storied hospice struck me forcefully, perhaps because I'm used to milling crowds in hospital complexes. Here, there's not even the sound of footwear clashing on tiles.Inside the MCH on the left is a mural of a leaf-laden tree, which speaks for itself. It's the donor tree - each leaf inscribed with the name of a benevolent donor. Donations are unsolicited, but welcome. Holy Cross hospice caters to the terminally ill cancer patients. Patients who have nothing to look forward to except a painful end. It's here the hospice steps in with palliative pain and symptom control.In 1998, the vision of the late Archbishop Kureethara took shape and the late Kerala Chief Minister E.K. Nayanar inaugurated the Holy Cross Hospice. Like a shelter from the raging storm, loving hands soothe the fevered brow, hold out helping hands when the gut wrenching pain strikes. This is what the Holy Cross sisterhood established. Their religious order follows message of Christ "Love your fellow men even as I have loved you". All sisters follow it to the last letterHere there are no religious divisions, only men and women who need to be cleaned, fed and look after till it is time into go the unknown. Death and the uncertainties of an after life haunts every human being and the Sisters of the hospice try as best as they can to sooth the fears of their patients. The Superior and Administrator, Sister Pascalina Poriyath, and her doughty band of six Sisters and about twenty nurses are cheerful, as they go about their various duties. Everything runs like clockwork - the corridors and wards are airy, large and the floors antiseptically sparkling. Footsteps are quick but hushed.In wards still waiting to be filled, the few sufferers smile at the sound of the sister's voices and the gentle nursing hands. Practically all the terminally ill patients are from in and around Kochi. Sister Pascaline would welcome more patients, for she says, "We're here to serve and help the dying on their final journey with dignity and peace".Two doctors pay weekly visits. Dr. Sister Lucy Thomas commutes from the Cherthala hospice to render medical assistance and Dr. Claramma Varghese who retired from Government Service lends her time too.

Facilities

Facilities for the patients leave nothing to be desired. Medical care and food are absolutely free. Upstairs I hear the whirr of a food processor as it is lunchtime and some patients have to be fed nasally. Bystanders and relatives can come and go as often as they like. The hospice has a spacious chapel for those who wish to attend mass and a recreation room for those who want some relaxation.Burial is performed according to the religion of the deceased, if no one comes to claim the body. Muslims take care of their own. The nearby church cemetery has graves for Christians. For Hindus, the Sisters have to get permission from the corporation and then carry the bier themselves. Outside the warm air is filled with bird cries. The long roofed tiled building harbours hearts and hands reaching our to succour victims of the scourge of malignancy.


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