Naveen Pappachan, a sixth-form student at Wymondham College, UK. A two-week work experience placement in India has opened his heart and mind to palliative care. Naveen explains the background to his longer article that was published in the January edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care.
I didn’t actually know what palliative care even meant two years ago. I found out when I attended one of Dr Suresh Kumar’s talks at King’s College London in 2011. It was through him I found out that not all people in this world have the privilege of universal access to palliative care. (1) This was the case in India until Dr Suresh and a handful of other individuals established the Calicut Institute of Palliative Medicine in my city of birth in 1993. Together, they started a revolution for palliative care across Kerala and their influence continues to spread across the rest of India. Through community participation in care they were able overcome the initial scarcity of resources and now the Kerala government and the local governments have started funding palliative care initiatives.
Inspired by the talk, I decided to journey to India and see this for myself. Upon arrival I was greeted with warm weather and warm hugs from my family who live there. After spending a day with them I immediately set off to Calicut. Upon arrival at the inpatient unit of the Institute I witnessed for the very first time in my life, a death. I still remember the image vividly – the man’s wrinkled face turned yellow, his innocent eyes staring into heaven, his wife sobbing softly next to him and the comforting circle of medical staff around them. Before I was fully able to process what I saw I was whisked away by one of the caretakers and given a tour of the place; the image still burned strong in my mind. I was shown my living quarters which looked strikingly like one of those holiday homes you only see in brochures and had a stunning cliff-side view of bright green coconut tree woods. Here I stayed for the rest of my experience, although appreciating the view was a lot harder with the memories of the suffering I saw each day still fresh in my head to this day.
What I remember more than anything, however, was the amazing commitment, love and respect shown by every single member of staff who worked with the Institute: doctors, nurses, paramedics, volunteers, etc all showed these qualities uncompromisingly. It is through their teamwork, I believe, that the Institute is able to deliver high quality holistic care to all of its patients everyday. Witnessing their dedication has cemented my desire to work in the medical profession. I dream about working as a doctor at the Institute one day, or perhaps even starting a similar service in another deprived part of the world. I hope to go to Calicut again in the summer of 2013, perhaps with a few friends. It was a truly a life-changing experience.
To find out more…
The article to which this post relates, ‘How community involvement is changing palliative care in Kerala’ by Naveen Pappachan, was published in the January/February 2013 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (volume 20, number 1). If you already have a web-based subscription to the EJPC you will be able to download this issue, plus all articles in the EJPC archive. You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription.
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1. The Prague Charter: Palliative care a human right demonstrates how we can all work together to advocate access to palliative care as a human right.
Please support the Prague Charter by signing the petition.