My experiences in palliative care – A Blessing

Categories: Community Engagement and People & Places.

About the Author:

Mr Krishnaraj is a former Chartered Accountant, who is now a volunteer at Pallium India.




I worked as a Chartered Accountant in the Middle East for more than 30 years. At age 58,  while reflecting on my blessings, I realised that I couldn’t find an answer or reasoning. I decided then that it was payback time for me. I packed up my bags to return home for good, to be involved in social work for the rest of my life.

After studying various NGOs, I stumbled upon Pallium India just by chance and googled to know more about palliative care.

The subject appealed to me perhaps due to my advancing years and after a brief chat with Dr Rajagopal, I decided, this is where I want to be – in Pallium India – as a Volunteer. I did serve in official capacities for some time.

During home visits to the interiors of Trivandrum, the sight of the living conditions of the poor patients and their suffering moved me. It opened my eyes to the harsh realities of life. I learnt that it only takes a moment for our world to turn upside down. I have seen affluent families who have fallen to penury and indebtedness by enormous spends on medical treatment. These visits further sensitized me and motivated me to do the best I can for our suffering brethren. It is so satisfying that very often you get to perform beyond the call of duty. I am for ever grateful to have had this opportunity / platform to serve my brethren without which I feel, Life is meaningless.

I hold Dr Rajagopal in high esteem as one can only gasp in awe as he narrates stories of his experiences and that’s a lot more than what one can learn from text books for a volunteer like me.

I am also highly appreciative of our clinical team and the related support staff including volunteers who provide such wonderful care towards providing relief and succour to the patients and their families. Interacting with patients when assisting in providing educational support for the children of our patients, vocational rehabilitation (to ensure they led a life of dignity and free from pain), Fund raising and advocacy gave me immense pleasure.

Some of the lessons I’ve learnt from my interaction with our patients are:

  • Many of them may not be educated, but they have the dignity and self-respect / self-esteem that they will not beg for money, no matter how bad their situation is, and that they are even reluctant to accept monetary aid that is handed out voluntarily. That is their greatness. Their only expectation is that we be there for them in their hour of need to provide solace and comfort which I think is the essence of the book, “Walk with the weary” by Dr Rajagopal. Even if a few of them sought your help, what’s wrong with that? It is only natural that those who have, should be approached by those who do not have.
  • Their endurance in suffering pain amidst their adversities and accepting their situation with grace is highly commendable.
  • I found the quote by H Jackson Brown Jr. to be so true. He said, “Remember that the happiest people are not those who get more, but those who give more”. Yet I feel, I haven’t done enough and need to do a lot more.
  • The fact that about 80% of caregivers, the world over are women, was a big eye opener for me too, something that we all took for granted and didn’t realize their great self-less contribution. I am truly humbled and proud of them all.

On the flip side, being involved with such a noble cause, I also realized the unacceptable treatment meted out to the LGBTQ community and worse still to HIV patients by the society and to some extent by the medical fraternity. Our organisation did conduct a workshop for the former at Puduchery a few years ago and recently a webinar was also conducted to discuss the issues faced by HIV patients, and these were good beginnings.

It wasn’t all so gloomy. There was fun and frolic too built into the home care trips – from climbing hills to reach remote homes, to having lunch by the Vellayani kaayal with the team and taking a bite and a sip at the road side eateries. Wow! It’s so exhilarating and would beat any organized tour that a tourist would undertake.

Accompanying visitors on home visits and interacting with them including the Iowa team were such memorable moments. Accompanying the shooting crew for 2 days on home visits to shoot the documentary, “Support, a Different Story” by Beena Paul (made for Fomaa) to highlight the role played by women caregivers – leaving home at 5 a.m. only to return at night was so enjoyable. Untimely meals at the office as we waited for our colleagues to join us after they were done with their meetings and snacking on pazham pori, vada, tea etc to satisfy my hunger pangs in the meanwhile, perhaps explained my big belly and fatty lever. Yet, it was all worth it, no regrets.

I have been witness to Pallium India’s growth from the time it was a fledgling organization 11 years ago, although well past it’s infancy then, to the behemoth it now is, providing training, engaging with State and Central Governments to influence legislation to benefit/advance palliative care and it’s integration into Health care, roping in the private sector who at one time were at logger heads with Palliative Care practitioners, a large work force with State Facilitation teams to cover the rest of India etc. I could go on and on with so many appealing patient stories to be told..

To cut this short, I feel blessed to be working in palliative care with Pallium India which I consider as my “extended home” and shall be glad to continue to serve the cause for as long as I can.

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