Sparsh Hospice believes in the motto ‘Adding life to living’. Lakshmi Ramakrishna visits the Hospice to learn about the palliative care at the end of curative treatment.
While death is inevitable for all of us, most people would like to die without pain and suffering. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a choice and the ravages of a terminal illness can leave one wishing for death.
Additionally, the sight of multiple tubes and complicated machines in the ICU ward of a hospital is intimidating — not just for the patient, but also for the family. Is there an option of living out one’s last days in peace without the intrusive prodding of needles and indifferent hospital staff?
Sparsh Hospice is the kind of place which gives terminally ill patients this option — where he or she can live in peace and have their loved ones around them throughout if they so desire.
It is a welcome relief from the rushed two-second visits in the freezing ICU ward of hospitals with the worry of mounting bills at the back of one’s mind. Sparsh, the first of its kind in the state, is run by palliative care specialist Dr Phani Sree Sagi.
Sparsh was set up by a group of well-meaning members from Rotary Club of Banjara Hills, including doctors, with the motto to give back to society. Housed in two buildings with 12 beds, it opened in September 2011. Till the first week of April, the caregivers attended to 70 patients in the age group of 16-85 years, out of which 35 passed away, while 30 were discharged to be taken care at home.
How do the patients get admitted here? Dr Sagi says, “All oncologists in the city are aware of the facility and inform the relatives of the patients when all possibilities to cure them are over. Some of them come to see the facility first as they feel guilty. Counsellors from Roshni and our staff counsel the relatives.”
Are the patients aware that it is the end of the road for them? Dr Sagi says, “Probably not. We counsel the patients in case they want to attend to something of importance, they can. We prepare them for it. But after counselling, usually there is peace on their faces.”
At the Hospice, there are nurses on 24-hour duty and the head nurse, Vara Lakshmi, has three decades of nursing experience at MNJ Cancer Hospital. According to Dr Sagi, all nurses working here are trained in palliative care in Bengaluru and MNJ Hospital.
“I did internal medicine and geriatrics and worked in the US with a lot of senior citizens, so there was a comfort level with the job at the Hospice. I was a geriatric consultant at the Apollo Hospital before becoming a director here.”
What are the services provided at the Hospice? Currently, only people suffering from cancer get admitted. However, they are not cured but relieved of pain. “We just manage their pain. They are given narcotics, steroids and anti-depressants so that they experience relief. We treat them for depression, constipation, nausea and vomiting, severe headache and wounds,” she says. Sometimes a tube is inserted to feed them or tap the fluids during abdominal discomfort. At times, they are even put on oxygen if they are breathless.
“We do not give chemotherapy, but we treat symptoms of cancer. This care is not available at home and if a person is a tenant, landlords try to get rid of them,” explains Dr Sagi. When required other specialists are also called in.
The patients here are in good spirits. Daisy, a school teacher from Vishakhapatnam, was busy doing needle work. A pastor visits her for spiritual guidance. An18-year-old girl, Fatima, who struck by the disease has been left paraplegic, but the love for applying mehendi (henna) for others is still there, so she applies it on the hands of the nurses and volunteers. Like any other bubbly teenager, she loves noodles and ice-cream. Though mainly vegetarian food is served at the Hospice, the inmates’ appetite for non-vegetarian food too is fulfilled.
How long do the patients have when they come here? “From days to two months,” says the doctor, quickly adding that there can be no prediction. Patients come here after bidding goodbye to pain.
The good thing about the Hospice is that when the end is near, it allows the patient to be with their family rather than strapped to tubes in an ICU. Relatives can hold their hands, play spiritual music and comfort them.
The Hospice doesn’t charge any money for its services. It is a charitable trust and runs on individual donations. It provides food and medicine for the patient and meals to one attendant free. “Plans are afoot to rope in Dr Reddy’s Labs to provide employable skills to one dependant of a cancer patient if he/she was the sole breadwinner,” says Dr Sagi.
As of now, relatives of patients donate medicines and funds. Volunteers and donations are welcome as there is no corporate funding provided to the hospice.
Photographs by Harsha Vadlamani
To donate or volunteer, please contact:
Sparsh Hospice, Plot No. 85, Road No. 12,
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad Tel: 9490448222