Monday, 19 September 2011

A Sunday call

He called me up during Sunday prayers.

The mobile was on silent so I sent him an SMS saying that I would call him later.

Then, while we as a house-fellowship were tucking into a sumptious spread of many different dishes I remembered that I had received a call from an unknown number. I dialed it and found myself speaking to Kanak (all names changed).

Kanak's sister-in-law Farah is dying. She is in a comatose state in the intensive care unit of a reputed hospital.

Farah is HIV positive. The hospital says they have done all they can. The money has drained out of Kanak's family.

Kanak checked the internet. Our name came up.

I asked Kanak to bring his sister-in-law's medical papers to show Sheba and get advice from her.

He brought a stack of papers. They said that Farah was suffering from retroviral disease (code for HIV). They detailed the steps that had been taken. She is on a ventilator right now.

Sheba talked with Kanak about what the family wanted. He said they were drained and without hope. The doctors have given Farah no chance of surviving off the ventilators - but the money has run out and the hospital will not continue to give the treatment without the cash.

We talked about a first step. The family will ask the doctors to take Farah off the ventilator and put her in a step-down ward. If she passes away - the family will take her for her last rites. If she stabilises, we will then bring her here to the JSK centre for further palliative care.

Though there is little hope of cure - we still pray with expectation. We asked Kanak if we could pray with him. He was happy for us to do so. We committed Farah and the whole family into the loving hands of Jesus.

Kanak told us about the sorrow he faced with his brother's death. "No one cared. No one is there to help." He cried. We told him he was welcome to cry if he wanted to.

"I can't cry in front of my mother" Kanak said. "She is a heart patient. It is only here that I can do this."

Kanak has left us for the posh environs of the reputed hospital. I don't think he will take much of the plushness in at this point. His sorrow and the grief that the family have gone through is deep - and hidden. HIV still does not dare speak its name.

We had no quick fixes for Kanak. But we did have a listening ear. A hand to touch him and hold him. A voice to tell him that it is alright to cry. A set of lips to pray together with him for help and peace for Farah and the whole family.

Kanak was so grateful. "I feel like a weight has been lifted from me. There was no one who understood so far."

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