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.

One response to “A life changing experience”

  1. Anant says:

    Thank you for sharing your account, I enjoyed reading it a lot. 🙂