Published on: June 23, 2018

Shantanu Diwakarrao Deshmukh, Second year MBBS student of Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute (MGMCRI, under Sri Balaji Vidhyapeet University), Pondicherry, writes:

Life is a blessing, it is often said. But for a few unlucky ones among us, it brings a lot of unforeseen curses along with it.

Such was the case of Velapandi (name changed), an 18 year old from Thanjavur. Fate took his father away from him when Vela was just 6 years old. His older brother lost his life at a construction site accident. Belonging to a low socio-economic class, with a sad history, Vela’s life shouldn’t have had any more suffering. But his fate knew no limits.

He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, for which he took treatment for 2 years. Hopes for getting cured increased when he was responding well to the treatment initially, but later the treatment became ineffective. He first visited a tertiary care hospital in Pondicherry, and then came to Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute and Hospital, Pondicherry, where he was admitted in the palliative care unit.

Here we witnessed his battle with cancer. How his young life was eclipsed by something which was now inevitable. The Palliative Care Unit Doctors and other staff treated him like their own, and his comfort and happiness were their prime objectives. Best available medical care was provided to him to ease his pain. But, medicines can’t provide what humans can – Care and Compassion.

Here at MGMCRI, we have a Doctors-Faculty-Students Social Service group called ‘Helping Hearts’ where we try and help everyone around us, spreading the humanity and care everywhere we can. Once we came to know about Vela, students and doctors from Helping Hearts and MGMCRI interacted with him, played with him, engaged him into long heart-to-heart conversations and tried their best to soothe him and make his last days happy, less painful, both physically and emotionally. And the reaction we hoped for, we saw it on his face. Our compassion reflected in his eyes. Conversations over ice-creams and chocolates, we got to know him and his immense love for movies, film star Ajith, how he would watch all his movies again and again and dance to his songs, his love for sports like cricket and Kabaddi. How he loved playing!

We developed a deep connection with him in a very short span. He became one of our friends. We thought of hosting a Kabaddi game for Velapandi as he loved it the most. In very short time, we fixed the plan and arranged everything. Vela was weak, tired and everything was done according to his preferences and his comfort.

On a Sunday, when usually everyone is lazy and asleep, everyone gathered on the college ground at 6:30AM, as Vela wouldn’t have been able to bear the hot sun after. Students from the first year to final year, interns, PGs, doctors and faculty members, everyone was determined to see a smile on Vela’s face, to hear his laughter, because this would be the last time we see him, and he sees us. The field was set. Boundaries marked. Our volunteers gave all their heart and sweat for the game. Probably not the best Vela had seen, but he was very happy knowing that strangers who don’t know him did this for him. He promised that he would come and teach us once he gets better. It was a different morning for him, unlike all the others where he used to be there lying in bed, fighting the pain. For that short period of time, we took his pain away. For that short period of time, we could hear his laughter and joy. Instead of grieving over his less days of life, we added more life in his days.

We bid farewell to him. He said, “Anna, Goodbye to all and Goodbye forever.” We watched his car go away till it disappeared at a turn, our minds troubled with the thoughts that his time was done on this earth.

Vela left us all on Sunday, 11th March 2018. He was an optimist, a fighter. Cancer ate away his body, but his will power was strong as ever. Vela is no more in this world, but his memories will remain with us forever. We knew each other for a very short time, but he rooted deep into our hearts, gave us a new experience, and left us with unforgettable memories. We got to know life in a different way because of him. May his soul rest in peace.

(Image: Velapandi watching Kabaddi organized by MGMCRI)