Karunashraya: Home for advanced stage cancer patients!

Posted by nishal_lama  |  27. August 2010

Karunashraya is a hospice in Whitefield Photograph: Nishal LamaKarunashraya is a hospice in Whitefield Photograph: Nishal Lama

“She has to survive for another three days; it’s her son’s wedding,” came a voice fading away as he gulped the last few words with tears rolling down his cheeks. It’s, however, not something new that Doctor Sadanand Gopal has heard from his patient’s kin. Reason: Doctor Gopal knows that death is certain for all his patients, is because they are all suffering from an advanced stage of cancer. The only thing he hopes for now, is a for them to have a peaceful death. “We try to make their life comfortable here. From the time a patient is brought to us, we know what is going to happen, and we accept that. The patients, too, know about it. All we try to do is make their last few days as comfortable as possible,” said Doctor Sadanand. He adds: “I have been seeing death’s for three decades now. So, it’s not something that I have been acquainted with after I joined here, but, all I can say is that my perception towards death has changed. Here, I know my patients are going to die, which is what makes palliative care so special, much different than usual practice that a Doctor would do.” 

On May 1, 2009, Karunashraya celebrated the 10th Anniversary, but, “it’s not the number of years of existence that matters; on the contrary, I think we are just richer with that many years,” says Managing Trustee Kishore S. Rao. Having touched the lives of as many as 7,500 lives through their in-patient service, and 2,415 lives through Home Care Service, Karunashraya has been a blessing for all these patients suffering from cancer. “Both our in-patient and home services are free, which is why we are keen that our service should reach the people who deserve it. We run only through donations,” said Rao. Asked him on how he perceives the years ahead, he said, “We want to offer our service to as many needy people as possible. With the money we get here, it’s tough for us to spend it on advertisements and any other form of publicity, so, the only advertisement we get is through word of mouth.” 

Situated near Marthahallii, on the way to Whitefield, Karunashraya, is a serene space. With its stone building and a hushed rippling pool place the tranquility adds to the environment of compassion, concern and cares that abounds and proffered to many who come here to spend their last days in peace and dignity. “All we can offer to a dying person is a comfortable death. We don’t want him to be abreast with what’s going on in the world outside. Hence, we try our best to make this place as serene as possible”. “The patients are already in a lot of pain and misery, which is why we try to make their life as comfortable as possible,” said Rao. According to Rao, Karunashraya ensures a support system that not only improves the quality of life for the terminally ill, but also makes certain that they die in dignity and peace. “Death is certain, all we can ensure is that people die with dignity here,” answers Rao. 

In medical terms, Palliative care is a form of medical care that stresses on reducing of severity of disease symptoms. Complete recovery for an advanced stage cancer patients is impossible, which is why Palliative care is offered by many of these Hospice Centres. With a round the clock service that the place offers, Karunashraya has 50 beds all in all. There are nurses who are available for the in-patient service round the clock. “We have got two doctors, eight nurses and 30 nursing assistants, and we offer a round the clock service. We want to expand and help in touching the lives of as many patients as possible,” said Rao. 
In palliative care, medication is as important as counselling. Karunashraya provides personal care, emotional support, respite care, financial and legal planning advice, symptom control, appropriate nutrition, bereavement support and medical supplies and equipment. 

For Nagarathna, Counselling coordinator, who has been with the organization for eight year now explains, “It’s very important that patients who come here are given a proper counselling. We have had instances where a patient was already in dire straits, yet he was more concerned about other things. Like financial problems, or something related to a family member. It’s important that we know what the patient has got in the back of his mind. They have suffered so much that many times they just start relying on blind faith and heightened spiritual beliefs. Sometimes, it works, and sometimes this doesn’t. So, we do regular counselling, which helps us to understand them on a better manner, and give them effective treatments.”  

The building also provides accommodation for full time nursing staff, helpers and other para-medicals. It will also provide day-care facilities for patients who wish to be looked after during the day but want to go home for the night. We meet a lady, suffering with breast cancer, but her son, an army man, was holding her hand, as he speaks to us. “We have done all that we could. But, when the doctors lost hope, we decided to bring her here. I think the place serves well for patients of her kind, because there is nothing we could do. At home, there is not everything that one can do,” said Raghu Akhtar.

 With treatments, which is a combination of both counselling and medicines, patients are given what they need the most: support. Reena Joy, Medical Officer, at Karunashraya, speaks, “The most important thing that these patients need is support, which is what we give them”. “We don’t just give these patients medical care, but also help them with psycho support. We give them pain therapy and various other treatments which help them shifting their thoughts from pain to something else. There is no curative treatment for an advanced stage cancer patient.” 
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