We call it the missing link for a reason.
Though the Government of India had created the National Program for Palliative Care (NPPC) in 2012 and though the Indian Parliament amended the draconian NDPS Act in 2014, all that had little impact because medical students were still not learning palliative care and were qualifying without seeing or learning pain management, leave alone all aspects of palliation.
Now we can fly!
And fly, we will.
Thank you, Professor Naveen Salins, head of Palliative Medicine of Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), for gifting us your analysis of the AETCOM module, indicating which disciplines the various aspects of palliative care will be taught in. Precious work! As usual, you combine brain power with sheer painstaking hard work. Your work is a great gift to our country.
Dr. Sunil Kumar from Pallium India gave an engaging talk at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine on March 14, 2019. Dr. Sunil was visiting after being awarded a competitive international scholar fellowship through AAHPM.
He spoke about the burgeoning field of Indian palliative care and the challenges his country has faced in this arena. He described the inspiring work of his colleagues in Pallium India and the overall structure of their program. During the Q and A session, he fielded questions about Pallium’s innovative volunteer program and their inpatient unit’s experience with ketamine (a novel drug in America that is only recently gaining traction in the U.S.). Dr Sunil did a wonderful job representing his organization and his country.
What does it take to transform a barren land into a beautiful garden? And to infuse life into the monotony of existence of people with major health issues?
Ian Wallace and his wife Dr. Anne Wallace from New Zealand showed that it could be done not with a lot of money but with a vision, a lot of grit and determination, the ability to mobilise and motivate people to lend a hand, and the use of recyclable materials that would otherwise have been wasted.
The Wallaces recently spent a month in Trivandrum where Dr. Anne was working on a project for Pallium India. She was joined by her husband Ian, a Forester. Ian was saddened by the sight of the hardened waste land lying at the far end of Pallium India’s premises. He visualised that it could be converted into a beautiful garden that would enhance the quality of lives of our in-patients. He soon set about buying the basic gardening tools of a shovel, pick axe, wheel barrow etc and working throughout the day to dig up the ground, clear it of weeds, rubble and waste. He used discarded wooden sleepers to build a compost bin (to produce vermi compost), dug and prepared pits and planted banana plants. He helped with preparing beds to grow spinach and planting seedlings of tomato, bitter gourd, egg plant, okra, mint, coriander, chilly, Roses, Lily, Bougainvilleas etc. His untiring efforts inspired a few caregivers to lend him a hand. Dr. Anne too found time to help out.
The Wallaces also raised funds for the venture from their friends in New Zealand and elsewhere, to give us a beautiful garden entirely free. We learnt many a lesson from their initiative and applaud them for such a noble gesture. Some of the plants have started yielding vegetables and are being used in our half way home and the surplus sold to staff. All proceeds from the sale go to the care of Pallium India’s patients.
Ian has aptly named the garden “The Healing Garden”.
We saw the garden truly healing people. Our lives acquired new meaning when a young woman with only three more days to live, hooked up to a syringe pump to ward off her incessant vomiting, was wheeled out to the garden and when a smile lit up her face for the first time in several days.
It was heart-warming when a gentleman with paraplegia, till then a “patient”, became a member of the healing team by untiringly engaging in painting the flower-pots. And when Ashla, our chairman’s executive assistant on her wheelchair, made a shaded area in the garden her office one day.
Read more about what the Healing Garden means to the people in our care: https://palliumindia.org/2019/01/love-made-visible/
This article wouldn’t be complete without recognising the untiring effort put in by Shriya Singh, an intern from IIM Kolkatta, Ramakrishnan the caregiver and Shambhu the volunteer consultant.
The Wallaces were filled with emotion when bidding good bye to their garden and to Pallium India. They have since been in frequent touch with us from New Zealand enquiring about the welfare of The Healing Garden.
We look forward to the day when the garden will beckon the Wallaces to make another trip to their creation.
She again called on the government sectors and hospitals encouraging decision makers and enthusiasts to develop palliative care in all corners of Mizoram. She met the principal of the new medical college and elicited a promise to include palliative care education in the curriculum. She met the National Health Mission head and urged him to build palliative care units in each district hospital and monitor the progress. She met the Principal of the Theological college to include palliative care in pastor studies and be the lead in mobilising the community in building palliative care. She visited the State Cancer Institute to reminiscence old memories of starting the first palliative care unit in that hospital!
Along with meeting officials and influencing them, she went around the Synod Hospital wards checking on patients with substance abuse and HIV and shared her learning from Uganda to further develop palliative care to these suffering patients in Aizawl. She also motivated the doctors and nurses through her teachings in the ten day program for the district hospitals team.
Her way with the local culture, the Scottish association with the rituals & food and the amalgamation of faith, makes her win every Mizo heart! Every Mizo heart jumped when she wore a “puan” (the traditional Mizo ladies’ wraparound) and a child shouted from a corner… “Beautiful lady !!!”
This is a mission that Gilly Burn had embarked on in the 1980s. She travelled from place to place in India as the manifestation of her love affair with this country. She would talk palliative care to anyone who would listen and has energised scores of professionals and volunteer champions to get into this field.
Dr Rajagopal, Chairman of Pallium India says, “I personally am immensely grateful to Providence that I came across this great human being at Trivandrum in 1992. Gilly took me along with 5 other Indian doctors on a 10 week course in Oxford conducted by Dr Robert Twycross which lay the foundation of quality palliative care in me and in numerous others.”