Palliative Care on ground, on air, and everywhere!

– Mr Umesh Pandey, Siliguri

The one thing that I always craved for was to be able to make people smile and make them feel special and happy. Though I am not a philanthropist, I try to fulfil my desires through my role as a Radio Jockey (RJ). While a section of my craving gets satisfied via the phone-in programs, I wish I had the opportunity to meet these individuals directly and see the sparkle in their eyes while I attempt to put a smile on their face. Despite this burning desire, and the limitations in time due to my various responsibilities I always waited for the day or for an opportunity to be able to do this in-person and make a difference to those who are distressed.

Then one day, I interviewed an eminent oncologist from our place in Siliguri, West Bengal. Dr Pankaj Chowdhary, is someone who is well known for his helpful nature and for conducting innovative programmes to bring awareness about cancer. During the interview, at an appropriate time, I had the chance to speak my mind and share my thoughts. I mentioned that I wanted to support the worried patients and their family members but only had a few hours of leisure time per week, that I could dedicate towards this.

Dr Pankaj then began to share the basics of palliative care. He mentioned that I could serve as a source of emotional strength and empathy for the patients and their caregivers. I began gathering the necessary knowledge required for this via multiple phone calls and in-person meetings with him. I learnt that one of the key requirements or a must-have to be able to truly understand a patients’ worries, needs and situations, was to have good communication and active listening skills. I was excited since I didn’t have to worry about learning these skills as I have been hosting several shows on the radio now for over a decade.

Just around the time I had decided to work as a volunteer, I learnt about the IAPC’s certificate programme for volunteers in Palliative care, which was being conducted in Siliguri. I participated in the program and also obtained a certificate upon successfully completing the programme. Thanks to this training program, I felt empowered and confident to communicate with patients in a new and more effective way.

While working as a volunteer at SPCC (Shanti Palliative Care Centre, Siliguri, West Bengal) I have and still am exploring and experiencing a lot of new ways to serve and comfort the suffering patients and their families. The satisfaction that I experience while supporting them cannot be fully and accurately expressed in words.

The coverage at the Radio station I work at, includes both the urban and rural areas of Siliguri. You see, radio is a powerful medium and has the ability to reach individuals right where they are, in their homes, cars, shops, offices etc.. By leveraging this medium, health messages can be easily sent to a diverse set of listeners across various age groups.

Using my role as an RJ, my team and I were able to conduct radio shows to spread awareness about palliative care and its benefits. Apart from these live shows, we also organised and performed ‘Nukkad Naatak’ which proved to be a very effective and appreciated activity. I am glad to share that people from various backgrounds witnessed the ‘Naatak’ and took away the key messages shared during the awareness generation activity. In the following morning’s radio show, we spoke about ‘Nukkad Naatak’ to reiterate the messages and also to reach out to those we had missed to ‘catch’ during the ‘Naatak’. 

Subsequently, we try and conduct various weekly phone-in programmes on the radio to increase awareness about palliative care among the community, which is a very much needed service in our region.

It is my strong opinion that if we leverage and harness the power and strength of the media, specifically, that of the Radio, to propagate the need for and the benefits of palliative care in our regions, the results will be very fruitful. It is very important to get the word out there and keep breaking the myriad myths that cloud the acceptance and utilisation of palliative care services.

I would also like to share that if one ever finds themselves stuck in a situation of wanting to make a difference to someone by joining a social service group or equivalent but does not have the sufficient time or resources to do so, then please do consider volunteering as an option. Your every action, no matter how big or small, will be beneficial and helpful to someone. A word of caution however is that if you chose to volunteer, you need to be trained and also be mindful of the level of commitment which you can make. Once you commit towards an activity, you must follow through and complete it, as volunteers are also a part of the care team in the eyes of the patient and their family.

I would like to thank Dr Pankaj Chowdhary for his guidance towards me and to several such volunteers, to the IAPC for conducting such needed training programmes, and to the patients and their families who placed their trust in me and provided me with an opportunity to put a smile on their face.

About the Author:

Mr Umesh Pandey is a professional Radio Jockey for over a decade now. He is passionate about reaching out to those in need.

He recently completed the IAPC’s volunteer training program to be an effective volunteer and further enhance his capabilities to support a suffering patient and their family.

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