Published on: September 21, 2018

Sajith (MSW, Pallium India), writes:

The recent floods in Kerala have left in their wake untold misery and suffering in terms of loss of lives and destruction of property and livelihood. The worst affected were patients undergoing treatment or receiving palliative care, who ranged from children to the aged including people with disabilities or those bed ridden.

I learnt a lot about this tragedy from the print and electronic media about how, many good samaritans including a large section of the youth came to the help of the distressed people, working with the government, other NGOs and relief agencies. I had never had the experience of working under such conditions and it was my innate desire to do so. I was therefore very happy when I received the instruction from my organization, Pallium India, to undertake a survey of the affected persons and prepare Pallium India (working with Govt agencies) to do what needs to be done with special regard to the suffering patients.

On 21st August 2018, our team comprising of two social workers (Anil from the state Social Justice Dept and myself), one psychologist and one volunteer visited Ms.Alphonsa Chacko (65) at a home stay facility in Fort Kochi. She used to live with her nephew Gypsun, in a place called Kuthiyathodu in North Paravur. Following an accident that she met with 6 years ago, she could not walk without assistance. The cataract in her eyes greatly weakened her eye sight. Her parents as well as siblings had passed away some time ago.

Alphonsa had no inhibitions in narrating their nightmarish experience. Flooding in their area was common; every year during the monsoon season, the administration sent out alerts asking people to relocate until the waters receded. That is why, they took the alert as a routine one and assumed that the water would recede soon. However, panic set in as the water reached the first floor. Although her nephew coaxed her to go with the rescue teams who arrived in boats to rescue them, Alphonsa was too scared to get into the boat and decided to stay back. Although Alphonsa urged him to move to safety with the boat crew, he refused to leave his aunt alone and decided to stay with her.

They moved to the second floor. No more help came. Before long, the rising water level forced them to climb to the terrace. They spent two days there, enduring hunger and thirst. In the mean time, Gypsun had been frantically texting his friends for help. His effort paid off when a Navy helicopter came to their rescue. They were air lifted and dropped off at the naval airport at Thevara. After receiving emergency care, they were shifted to the home stay in Fort Kochi by the police personnel. At the request of Alphonsa, Anil the social worker had her temporarily shifted to a Home Care facility.

Two weeks ago, I came to know that she had undergone surgery for cataract and that she is gradually regaining her eye sight.

This experience was a new awakening for me and I hope to continue our efforts to bring succor to those suffering.

(Translation from Malayalam by Krishnaraj Nambiar, Pallium India.)

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