Offering them succour

About a year ago, when he lost his wife to cancer, K.P. Thomas, retired employee of the LIC, decided to divert his energies towards helping terminally ill cancer patients from poor families at the Regional Cancer Centre RCC.

He focussed his attention on some individuals who had been doing voluntary service at the RCC for several years, to get them together as a group that will give home care and solace to many dying patients attached to the Pain and Palliative care unit of RCC.

The organisation that he helped found, Care Plus, is a year old and is taking care of several dying cancer patients in their last days. Many families devastated emotionally and financially by the death of the mother or father have also been taken under the wings by Care Plus.

On July 24, when Care Plus members celebrated their first year - incidentally, it was also the birthday of Mr. Thomas - they were also saddened by the knowledge that Mr. Thomas has also fallen a victim to cancer. But Mr. Thomas is unperturbed; even from his sick bed, he has been calling up friends and motivating them to donate generously towards sustaining Care Plus.

Care Plus, which started out in a small way, today has a full-fledged unit comprising a doctor, a nurse and a dedicated team of volunteers, who visit terminally-ill poor patients registered with the Palliative Care Clinic at the RCC at their homes, giving them free medicine, cleaning and dressing wounds, catheterization, administering IV fluid and generally, whatever they can do to improve the quality of life of the dying person.

"Our attempt is to reach out to them and help them ease their physical and emotional distress. Our volunteers concentrate on the families, helping them come to terms with the imminent loss. Often, some families would not have any food to eat, so we also give them provisions for a week," says a Care Plus member. The patients, often in the suburbs, are visited every week.

Cancer kills not just the patients, the financial and emotional burden it brings on can be devastating to families. Care Plus' attention has been towards lending financial support to children to continue their studies and in helping families set up some small revenue-generating enterprises.

The education of over 50 children from cancer-afflicted families is being sponsored by the donors' fund by Care Plus. One of the main tasks of the organisation is to canvass donors to contribute towards children's education.

"We are trying to find donors who can afford to donate Rs. 1,000 annually for the care of cancer-afflicted families," says another volunteer.

The Care Plus team says that they have been extremely lucky in finding some committed people and corporates who have been contributing generously towards their cause.

By Maya C.

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