The Hindu: A Caregiver’s Story

2011 May 12
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The second article from The Hindu, Sunday May 8th, Magazine, “Palliative Care in India”:

Waiting for a miracle


Thimmayya, 41, is a car-driver in Bengaluru, caring for a wife who has End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and given few weeks to live. He ushers us into the dimly-lit interiors of his house where, in a small windowless room, his wife Shubha is lying on a wooden bed. She looks pale and sickly but manages a weak smile and a faint namaste on seeing us. And then closes her eyes as if drained by the effort. A nurse and dialysis paraphernalia are beside her bed.

We come out. Thimmayya tells us his story. He is barely coherent and keeps stopping to compose himself as tears well up in his eyes.

“I came here from Belgaum six years ago for better education for my children. But the health of my wife, already diabetic, began failing rapidly two years ago. From medication to insulin to dialysis and one amputation — she has seen hell and so have we. The dialysis, which began as a once-a-week event, became an everyday necessity and now it’s several times a day. She might have a heart attack any time, the doctors say. I have run through all my resources — relatives, friends, current and former employer, charitable institutions… And I am now deep in debt. But what is worse is watching her suffer and deteriorate everyday despite our love and medical care, despite our prayers and vows. She is dying… and we are watching helplessly. I thought my daughter was a brave girl, since I never saw her cry. But when I sent her to my sister’s house, before her 12th class exams so she could study peacefully, I realised how little I knew. My sister told me my daughter spent most of the first few days sobbing and was inconsolable. My son has become a poor eater and rarely goes out to play nowadays. People ask me if I have thought about the future. How can I think of anything beyond the present moment and my sinking wife who requires constant attention?”


Thimmayya’s nine-year-old son comes out and encircles his father’s waist with his arms and looks up at us with a vacant expression. Thimmayya continues: “Miracles happen, my mother used to say when I was growing up. At least for the sake of these children I hope one happens and my wife wakes up healthy one morning. You think God will give us a miracle…?”


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