Suma (not her real name) was a 26 year old postgraduate diploma holder in computer science, but had been unable to go to work because she had to care for her mother in their precarious thatched hut, perched on a strip of land that, according to Government records, did not belong to them.
Suma had given up her life to look after the mother. If there was a support system to help care for people like her mother, Suma could have had a good career, built a life and still looked after her mother. But it was not to be. The medical system bled the family and forced them into abject poverty. Neighbours found the mother dead, with Suma hanging right above her.
We palliative care workers are too often overwhelmed by stories like this. We reach them too late, or when we do, our support is nowhere near enough. And, not infrequently, we are forced to reject people who need us most, because they live too far away or simply because their social or other problems are beyond our ability to solve. Some of us burn out, unable to cope with the suffering. Some of us go on, because so many of you out there wish us well and support us.
This Christmas season, we share our pain with all of you for feeling so impotent that we were not able to support Suma and her mother enough.
Suma, you lived a brave and meaningful life while it lasted. We pray for your forgiveness for not being supportive enough.