Over the past month we have been admitting patients with HIV to the JSK Community Care Centre.
With each person that we serve we are reminded of the immensity of need - and our own finiteness in caring.
Mrs. Pinky was met by our staff in the civil hospital. She was discharged with no hope left. She came here. Pinky was in a pitiful state. We tried hard to revive her.
When she first came to JSK she could not talk. After some hours she began to speak. But we knew from the onset that it was going to be touch and go with her.
Our nurses cared for her. Pinky's father and mother did so too. Ageing parents looking after a dying daughter.
We did what we could. On my Dad's 70th birthday Pinky began to slip. In the afternoon Sheba told me that she thought Pinky was dying. We prayed. A few minutes later she had revived. She was able to talk again for some time. Sheba and Sashmita talked and prayed with Pinky. She was able to express her readyness to be with Jesus.
Later that evening - just as we were sitting down for a celebration dinner - the phone rang. It was from the JSK centre. Pinky had stopped breathing. Sheba left the table and went over. I held the fort. An ambulance was arranged to take the body - Sheba talked with the family and signed the death certificates.
30 years into the HIV epidemic and we are still dealing with death. Still dealing with gaunt cases of neglect. Still trying to pry people back from the edge. Still working to somehow provide love and care for those who are at the cusp of eternity.
For the last few years we have focussed on community-based home care for people with HIV. We have seen death rates fall and so many of our friends stable and moving forward. There are of course real challenges in each life - but we are not dealing with death day in and day out.
That has changed since we moved into the care centre. The people who we now meet here are ones who have had virtually no care - whose HIV has been basically untreated and now they are at the end of their tether. The word that comes to my mind is 'salvage.' A desperate attempt to try and pull people back.
This is taking its toll on us. We are a small group. We have 1 nurse on duty at a time. 3 nurses to work. For one to take a day off means the other two need to do 12 hour shifts. And the outcomes are largely ones where the patient dies at the end. We want to save lives - not be a hospice. But that is where we are right now. For every patient who we discharge better, we seem to be writing a death certificate for the next. That is not quite true if you look at the statistics - but it is true that we have lost 3 of our friends in the last month - and had looked after 8 patients through intensive care over this time.
Pray for Sheba as the pressure to 'perform' and utilise the premises that we have is very high. We have a beautiful facility - but need so many more hands to care for people in such desperate situations.
Pray for our nurses as they work with the very sick. We are proud of the care that they are giving and know that eternity is the richer for the loving care for our very broken friends with HIV.
Pray that we would experience some more 'happy cases' too. We need to be encouraged to see people get better and back to life as it were!
The other day one came back. I noticed a man in the hall who looked familiar. When I came close to him and saw his wife as well. We will call her Mariam. Mariam had a huge smile on her face and it came back to me - she was one of the first people we had admitted at the new centre.
Now here she was with her husband and a beaming pre-teen daugther, waiting for a followup with Sheba. We know that we were able to help Mariam come back to life. We know that she still has challenges - esp. since her husband continues to teeter through life with the ravages of the bottle taking their toll on him. But we see hope in Mariam's eyes.
Would that we did not have to do salvage work. But as long as HIV continues to work through our society - it looks like we are here to stay. Sheba and I came to Mumbai 10 years ago in answer to a call. To work through caring with people with HIV. And to work with and through local churches. The call came unexpectedly while we were serving at a mission hospital in Jharkand. It was clear as a bell and we had to obey. On the 2nd of October we will complete a decade of obedience to this call. Though there are many times (even now) when we want to throw in the towel - we know that we must persevere.
Thanks for being along with us on this journey.