Published on: September 27, 2019

Aleya Philip, a student from Chennai who volunteered with Pallium India for a week, writes:

The short time I spent at Pallium was definitely a reality check and a memory I will never forget. Coming from a relatively privileged family, I had never seen such heart ache and trauma. Initially my mother was hesitant to send me, saying, ‘Aly, it might be too much for you to take in at such a young age’, but I was adamant. I did not even know what Palliative care was until I did my research and learnt about it. I was honored that I got this opportunity to help and ease one’s pain, but I did much more than that.

It was a proper 9-5 job. I did all kinds of work, from helping with administrative tasks to attending ECHO meetings with pioneers in the field. I also met with Miss Devi Vijay who was conducting research on the ‘Kerala Model’ of palliative care. My day started at 6:30 AM as we had to catch the bus at 7:45/8:00 AM. After I got off the bus I would go for breakfast and then rush to the office and go for morning rounds with the doctor, nurse and psychiatrist. Then it was either a home visit or a meeting, sometimes even a hospital visit.

I was at Pallium for 5 days. In this short time, I learnt so much. On 3 days I went for home visits. Those are of two types: rural and urban. I went for two rural visits and one urban visit. The rural visit peaked my interest a lot more as they were places with no proper road access, and involved providing aid to people who are unable to come to the center to avail services.

One day I went to a Government Children’s hospital, where the team and I assessed cases and provided the family with a course of action, be it further treatment, surgery, physiotherapy and so on. The social workers also updated the family’s social report and child’s progress and his/her understanding of the issue at hand. I also read some horrific stories from the social report files which I only thought existed in movies but happened in reality.

On the last day at Pallium I was asked to teach a little boy how to read time in roman numerals. Initially this appeared to be a daunting task as he did not know English and I did not know Malayalam. But with patience and compassion I figured it would not be so hard. I started with teaching him how to draw a clock and showed him which hand meant what. After I ran around the office trying to learn basic numbers in Malayalam, I told him in my broken, half-baked Tamil mixed with Malayalam what I meant. To my shock, he instantly understood. I repeated the same with roman numerals and then to make the task more fun we drew more clocks with colours and I asked him questions about what time I had drawn.

After all this was done I had a reflective conversation on my learnings. This really taught me how much of our country has limited access to avail basic medicines and treatments. I suggested a few things that I thought may make a change in the patient’s life. One of them was to paint the walls of the room the patient was in and change the lights. This is a small thing but I felt like that could really brighten up their life.

I would like to conclude by saying this opportunity was a life changing one and it really opened my eyes to the real world. I would like to thank Ms. Smriti Rana, Ms. Shriya Singh and the whole Pallium team who made my stay and work place warm and welcoming.