Going gently into the GOOD night
Karunashraya, a charitable trust, helps the terminally ill breathe their last in peace
Love and care are a crucial part of cancer treatment
YOU MATTER up to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but to live fully until you die.
Dame Cicely Saunders,
STATISTICS reveal that there are more than 10,000 new cases of cancer in Bangalore each year, and 80 per cent of them make it to the hospital when it is too late. They need both physical and emotional care, and sadly, they do not receive it at the right time.
Karunashraya is a hospice that offers love and care to patients who are in advanced stages of cancer. As a part of the Bangalore Hospice Trust, and a project of the Indian Cancer Society and Rotary Club of Bangalore, Indiranagar, Karunashraya has 50 beds, with trained staff. Built on land leased by the Government, this charitable trust offers free service and relies solely on donations.
On May 1, 1999, Karunashraya took into its fold its first patient and helped live her last days "painlessly, in dignity, and in peace". The hospital has so far admitted 1,440 patients, out of which 870 have breathed their last on its premises.
Kishore S. Rao, Managing Trustee, was employed with Madura Coats, but gave up his job to follow his calling. Having lost his mother to the disease, he vowed to make a difference to the lives of others. "In hospitals, only medicines can be administered to patients, there is little time for anything else. But here, we can make a difference even though we know they are going to be here for a few days; they can die in dignity," he says. Palliative care, a concept little known in India, remains its principal area of focus. When medicines finally become ineffective, palliative care begins, which includes all aspects of caring and managing patients for the alleviation of symptoms. Karunashraya has taken the lead in opening a training centre to get medical professionals, nurses, and social workers familiar with this area. In collaboration with the Rotary Club of Bangalore, Indiranagar, and the Bangalore Hospice Trust, the Centre for Palliative Care Education was inaugurated in May 1999, with the aim to generate awareness about it.
Jabeen Menzies, a medical professional, came to Karunashraya in 1999, at a time when she was looking for some meaning in her professional life. For her, it was important that the patient come to terms with his/her impending death. "Mind plays a crucial role in the physical well-being of a person and here, patients enjoy the environment and feel good. Most patients are tense and have to learn to allow their minds and bodies to relax," she explains.
Ms. Menzies, who has worked with patients facing emergency, is with them through the thick of their struggle for life. She confesses how traumatic it is to watch young patients die.
T.K. Ramanathan, Medical Officer, says the centre gets patients from all over India. "It is mostly by word-of-mouth, or on the recommendation those who have known or have heard about us," he says. "Many patients want to breathe their last in the company of loved ones in their homes. We respect that. There have been instances when patients have come here and have left the hospice to be with family towards the end."
A serene setting for the body and mind to relax
The staff at Karunashraya is known for the dedication. In fact, Chief Minister S.M. Krishna felicitated Sr. Blaise for her dedicated and selfless service. Says Sr. Blaise: "We receive much more than we give. Very often, patients who come to us are starved of love and care. It is a joy to help them; and the gratitude they express alone makes it worthwhile."
Even before Karunashraya became a reality, the Bangalore Hospice Trust had set up its Home Care Service. This rare facility enables families of terminally ill patients to avail themselves of its services. Free of charge, this unique service entails experienced family counsellors and nurses going to patients' homes and offering them medicare and moral support. Some 883 families have benefited from this voluntary service so far. More often than not, patients come from economically backward sections of society. While providing assistance, family members are also trained so that they can take care of the patients if need be.
Home Care Service is available between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and between 10 a.m. and 1p.m. on Saturdays. No service is available on Sundays and holidays.
If you want to volunteer your services, wish to make a donation, or need more information, contact
Karunashraya on 8476133/8476509 or e-mail email@example.com. You can also check out www.karunashraya.org.
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