Giving comfort during a difficult time - The New Indian Express

Giving comfort during a difficult time

Published: 07th November 2013 11:48 AM

Last Updated: 07th November 2013 11:48 AM

For many terminally ill patients, the reality of their slow but certain deterioration is almost like a dark corridor to after-life. However, a group of Hyderabadis have taken it upon themselves to make that journey as painless and cheerful as possible.

Forming the Rotary Club of Banjara Hills three years ago, this group included doctors, professionals and businessmen who wanted to set up a project that would have a bearing on the everyday lives of people in need. Thus Sparsh was born.

“The Rotary club had 30 members when it started in 2010 and there were six doctors. So we started discussing the idea of opening a hospice as there was no such facility in the State at that point of time. There were downsides, like the expenses since the service is provided free of charge, but all of us agreed to proceed, and hence formed a separate trust for Sparsh in March 2011,” explains Dr M Subrahmanyam, president and trustee of Sparsh.

A hospice for the terminally ill, Sparsh takes care of people in their last stages of life to make them comfortable and give emotional support. Considering the many nuclear families that are there today and in a generation where both the husband and wife are bread winners, many elderly people and terminally sick people get neglected by their families. The hospice provides a solution to both, helping these patients live out the end of their life in dignity, without the trappings of feeling guilt or dependence.

Like any new initiative, Sparsh took time to set up and came with a lot of challenges. “It was very difficult to acquire land for setting up the facility. Landowners were unwilling to give out their property as they felt that with so many deaths happening there, the land would not attract many buyers. Also, we wanted a location which had greenery around it to give patients a peaceful and serene atmosphere. We finally found a location and started it in September 2011,” he shares.

Over the last 18 months, the facility has been able to support more than 200 dying patients. All services provided by Sparsh are free including stay, food, medicines, medical care and so on. Visitors are allowed without any restrictions and an attendant is also given free stay and food. The hospice is managed by its trustees and volunteers, and funded by donations.

However, they do try to raise funds as well through many initiatives. For instance, for Diwali, they had sold crackers to raise funds, while another time, they invited The Colonial Brothers to perform at a fundraising concert. Cultural events have also been organised to help in this regard, like the ‘Kuchipudi Mrityanjali’, a dance programme that took place at Ravindra Bharati in January this year. An annual fund raiser and charity auction was also held in July at the N Convention Center.

“We had purchased crackers from Standard Fireworks for approximately `25 lakhs. Around 3600 boxes were sold and proceeds will be going towards the hospice,” the doctor informs.

Besides organising such events, in-house patients also get treated to festive celebrations.

“Many of these patients come with not just physical problems but psychological and family problems as well. We take care of their pain, their symptoms and their wounds and try to keep them as happy as possible,” explains Pallavi Madhira, a volunteer and counsellor.

For patients, every day is about sickness and sometimes they require a change, especially during festivals. “The members of the club came forward to celebrate Dasara and Diwali with the patients, which was followed by dinner. We do this to bring a change from the usual monotony of unrelenting pain and sickness,” Dr Subrahmanyam says.

Considering that most of their patients are people afflicted with cancer in the advanced stage, death is a regular visitor, if not family. A slow slipping into oblivion that often occur over a period of time, it involves dealing with tremendous pain, both physical and emotional, and a drastic change in physiology. The hospice takes in to consideration the various needs of the person, giving them the support they need to deal with their disease. Staff provide active care in a bid to improve the quality of life as well. The goal of the hospice is to affirm life but regard dying as a normal process and provide as much relief as possible. To neither postpone nor hasten death and also offer support to the family during this time is the driving motive.

However, this poses a challenge for those who are healthy and working to alleviate the pain of the suffering. With new patients getting admitted and older patients passing every week, it is bound to take an emotional toll on the care-givers. “Sometimes you can get very attached to a patient within a span of one or two days. It is very hard for us to deal with it even though we are prepared for it. I suppose we need to have a strong base of spirituality to help us through with it,” adds Pallavi.

There are currently 14 beds, two doctors, six nurses and two volunteer who work at the hospice that is located on Road No 12, Banjara Hills. Their doors are open to any terminally ill patient and awareness drives are on to let people know that there’s a place to be if all other doors appear shut.

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