Friday, 18 November 2011


Palliation.  Not a nice word. The very wince of it seems to suggest defeat.  Seems to say that whatever we did has not worked.  For me the word reminds me of pallid - a husk of a word - giving-up stretched out as long as possible.

But for us palliation is a reality. And one that has its own joys despite the imminence of death.

We brought Mrs. Candy back day before yesterday.

Mrs. Candy has been on treatment for years.  She had TB. Was treated. Poorly.  Had to be retreated.  At the end of her retreatment she was still coughing up TB bacilli.

With the help of another agency - we got Mrs. Candy on multi-drug resistant TB treatment.  She took a mountain of medicines for 2 years.

She survived.  Sort of.  At the end of the time she was culture negative.  But not well.

Her hard small body has been battered for many years.  Besides her HIV - her late husband battered her.  Beat her with his hands.  Beat her heart by taking other women into his home while she was there.

When we first met her she was begging outside a local temple.  Her son was almost feral. 

These years have been hard ones for her.  A woman for whom destitution is not an abstract noun - but a daily reality. 

It has been hard at times to know how to relate to her.  But through all of the ups and downs we have seen a smile and a depth of character that belie the chaos that most of her life seems to have been.

Last week she had a lot of swelling.  It seems that her heart is giving out.  Sheba is away so we had to take her to the civil hospital.  After a short time there, we were told to vacate her.

The Civil Hospital was on strike and they said that she needed a sonography done for her heart.  So they sent her to JJ hospital.  When our staff arranged an ambulance and took her there - they found that it too was on strike.  We were told that Sewri hospital would admit her.

After some cajoling they did.  But they are a TB hospital.  And so they insisted on restarting TB treatment. 

This after she has already been through the most gruelling course of medications you can think of.

It was time to call it quits.

We talked to Mrs. Candy's daughter - who had finally shown up - and brought them back to the centre.  Dr. Marise came over and explained things to Mrs. Candy.  She has to be ready to die.  We will be giving medications for her heart condition - but its unlikely to improve much.

We are switching to palliation.

How much longer Mrs. Candy will live is anyone's guess.  Her son - once a vagabond - is now studying at a hostel run by a small Bible college.  Mrs. Candy wants him to become a pastor.  We will be bringing him to spend some time with his mother.

Our team will be visiting the family every other day. 

Mrs. Candy says she is ready to die.  She has seen life and she has met God personally.  Her simple faith puts most of us to shame.  Her sufferings and her complexities continue - but that bright flash of a smile that peeps out every now speaks of a different reality that she is experiencing in these last days.

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