Kindness: A language by which the blind can see and the deaf can hear!
– Palliative Care Physician, India
The below mentioned short article is based on true life events. I hope that by sharing this, it will provide you with some food for thought!
Raghu (name changed), was admitted to our palliative care center as a destitute. He was found under a bridge, in a debilitated condition, with a discharge slip from the local hospital with a diagnosis of ‘Advanced malignancy with peritoneal metastasis, Primary not known’. When we met Raghu, we thought that he may not live beyond the end of the week. We were however fortunate to care for him for about three weeks. While he stayed with us, we noticed that his general condition seemed to improve!
One day during those three weeks, we learnt that Raghu longed to eat Roti and radish along with garlic chutney. Our Nursing staff prepared the same for him immediately. Interestingly, the next day he craved for Puranpoli, a regional preparation made from sweet lentils. Though Raghu could barely eat half a teaspoon of these dishes, he felt satisfied and content. He expressed his gratefulness in being looked after. He was also now able to talk a little bit and most importantly, smiled often.
Shortly however, one Saturday evening, he expired. Upon receiving the police clearance (since Raghu was a destitute), we decided to send his body for cremation the next day.
At this juncture, I must share that all the staff at our center are women, barring the Security personnel at the gate, and Kiran (name changed), who does odd jobs for us in his leisure time.
Despite Raghu’s cremation being on a Sunday, which was Kiran’s day off, yet, he agreed to go along with Raghu’s remains for the cremation.
All was set, the vehicle was ready, and as the staff on Duty were bidding farewell to Raghu’s last journey, our Chief (the gentleman to whom the Institution belongs to; also a friend and a mentor to me) drove in. He enquired regarding the arrangements made for Raghu’s funeral. His next sentence stunned all of us! He said that he would go with Raghu’s remains and do the funeral rites as Raghu was not only our responsibility but was also someone who belonged to our family at the Institute.
Now, is this kindness, humility, empathy compassion, duty, or what?
While witnessing this, I, a palliative care worker, felt that Raghu’s story was an example of how kindness and palliative care came together. There was kindness in the person who found Raghu and informed the police about this sick and dying person under the bridge. There was kindness in the policemen who brought Raghu to us. There was kindness in the willingness of the nurses to not only care for Raghu’s medical needs but in also going beyond and preparing the dishes that he so longed for, even after knowing fully well that he may not even taste it and that he was advised to not eat them. There was kindness when Kiran agreed to go with Raghu’s remains for the cremation. The Crowning Glory for us was when our Chief undertook the last rites! Here, lies the streak of kindness in all of them!
We, as palliative care professionals, must always remember to be kind to one another and also to ourselves. This is something so simple, yet something so powerful and impactful, both for the giver and for the receiver. I hope that we continue our practice in palliative care, while being guided by the words of Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.
I will leave you with this short video on What is kindness?
About the Author: The Author is a wonderful and senior palliative care physician from India who wishes to remain anonymous.