Thursday 10 April 2014

The Cancer Crusaders by Insiyah Vahanvaty. (Disclaimer: Hospital Guide Foundation provides a neutral platform for Patients/attendants & Doctors to express their opinions/experiences. These views are of the writer.)

Two years ago, my in-laws went through a rough time- my husband’s uncle who had been fighting sarcoma (soft tissue cancer) for many years was finally told to go home. Being as close to the family as he was, he chose to spend his last days with us, rather than in Calcutta, where he then lived. Also, being financially drained by the illness, the decision made practical sense too.
However, he hadn’t considered the fact that medical care in Delhi would be so much more expensive than Calcutta. Also, the cancer had resulted in the amputation of one leg, rendering him immobile. So, apart from financial constraints, there was the added problem of finding a doctor who would come home to examine him. After trying every possible avenue that I could think of to no avail, I decided to check with Hospital Guide Foundation (HGF), an organisation that works towards connecting patients with the right doctors. I didn’t think anything would come of it, because, well, the facts of the case were indeed asking for a lot- we needed a doctor who would make home visits for a terminally ill, handicapped cancer patient, extend palliative care till the end of his life. The chances of finding such a doctor seemed very slim to me.
However, I decided that I might as well check with HGF, so I dropped them a message. The very same day I received a call from HGF, who informed me that they had found  an organisation which dealt with EXACTLY the kind of patient our uncle was. At HGF's recommendation, I got in touch with CanSupport, an NGO that works with cancer patients who cannot afford private care. They are a charitable organisation who don’t charge a dime for anything other than medicines, and will visit as often as 2-3 times a week, depending on the care the patient requires.
When I first called them, they were polite and patient, giving me all the information I needed, as well as scheduling a visit for the very next day. Once they arrived, they spent about an hour and a half with the patient and the family, discussing his illness and his physical as well as psychological needs. (The team that visits typically consists of 3 people- a doctor, a nurse and a counsellor.)
After that, the doctor called the patient almost everyday, even made a couple of unscheduled emergency visits, and completely gained the family’s trust. They were also sensitive enough to arrange for a male nurse to minimize embarrassment for the patient. The patient told me that he actually looked forward to their visits, and that talking with the counsellor and doctor made him feel stronger. The counsellor also spent time talking to the family, helping them deal with the eventuality of his death, and provided them with coping measures.
He has, since then, passed on, but I have to say that through his illness, dealing with scores of medical caregivers, this one really stood out. Many thanks to Hospital Guide Foundation for introducing me to them.

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