There are really only a handful of places that I really saw my father “feel at home” in apart from our own house. One was my grandmother’s house in Germany, another was Goa, and a fourth — and the reason why I am writing this post — was Bangalore Baptist Hospital (BBH).
It sounds strange, but towards the last days of his life, my father decided he wanted to be in the hospital instead of at home. More specifically, he wanted to go back to BBH. To a specific room, on a specific floor, to be cared for by a specific set of amazing individuals. And no, he wasn’t a VIP — but this hospital made him feel like one.
I remember the first time I walked into the hospital to admit him after the diagnosis got confirmed at another, more “cutting-edge” hospital. I had just emerged from a long battle with the insurance provider, who had finally decided they had received enough paperwork to confirm the diagnosis. This required me to make several trips to the insurance department in the previous hospital who, while not exactly unhelpful, seemed to act faster if I hung around their cubicles, peering over their shoulders as they ‘located’ our forms. I was dreading a similar experience at BBH.
We came to BBH for several reasons: it was close to home, and it came highly recommended. I remember navigating the corridors, trying to get my bearings in a place that I would come to visit so many, many times over the next couple of months. And if its possible to have good experiences at a hospital, it happened for us at BBH.
From the word go, the attending team of doctors and nurses understood that my father was not going to be an easy patient to have under their care. He had access to the internet. He knew too much, more than he should have, which got him into a panic often. He knew what was coming, he knew how it was going to happen. He knew what signs to look out for. I am deeply obliged to the team at BBH for never dismissing his constant “involvement” in his own treatment. They let him into their daily routine with his world of technology.
The hospital staff had to negotiate their way over switchboards and extension cords that surrounded his bed. They had to contend with his numerous iDevices that made the bedside tables their home. After they measured his blood pressure with the hospital blood pressure monitor, they patiently waited while he used his own. The doctors countered his fears the best way they could — they didn’t try to placate him with a promised full recovery or a bright future. When tests confirmed, sometime in March, that the chemo wasn’t working, the team at BBH focused on keeping his mind at rest by giving him the one thing he has always wanted to hear — the truth.
And nobody had a tougher job dealing with my father than the palliative care team at BBH. I cannot imagine, really, what it was for him to face the fact that he was losing the battle. If you have ever interacted with Atul Chitnis, you would know that losing was never an option. Giving up was out of the question. He hated showing weakness, his mind was still so strong, but his body was betraying him. Losing control was his worst nightmare but here he was.
Just like the other teams at BBH, the palliative care team swung into action quietly, efficiently and without any fanfare. The amazing bunch of people made my father’s last days as ‘liveable’ as possible. Yes, he was suffering. But the palliative care team managed to make the good moments count, they poured strength into that fighting body when it was receptive to get through the waves of pain that followed. And I’m not just talking about medication. While their focus was of course the patient, I am eternally grateful for that team for giving my mother that same strength and courage, so that she too could remain steadfast in her determination to first help him fight, and then help him just make it through the dark moments.
The first time I heard that the palliative team came to meet my father, I lashed out at my mother. I refused to look at the pamphlet they had left behind. I knew he was dying, I knew the end was near, but I didn’t want to imagine the horrible path we had in store for us — for him. The journey that began the day the scans came back, the end literally depicted in black and white. My father had stubbornness ingrained in every cell of his body, and these stubborn cells were resolute in their decision to remain unresponsive to chemotherapy.
For us, the journey ended on June 3, 2013. But for palliative care teams, it is never ending. They wake up each day to help people fight battles that they know they must lose. They give them strength to fight pain that is even more painful because the patient must get through it knowing that there is no hope. I know my father would agree when I say that he was lucky to have the BBH Palliative Care team by his side to help him fight. But not everybody is so lucky — there are people who cannot make it to hospitals because they often prefer to stay at home when faced with life limiting illness, or they simply cannot afford it. The harsh reality is this — when the end is near, many families believe it doesn’t make financial sense to continue providing patients with medical care. However, the BBH Palliative Care team goes out to provide palliative care to those at home (in Bangalore), and this service is provided free of cost to needy patients.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can support them by spreading awareness, becoming a volunteer or making a donation then please contact the Palliative Care Department, Bangalore Baptist Hospital, Bellary Road, Hebbal, Bangalore 560024
For enquiries on services and training programs
Phone: +91 22024395 (Mon – Fri 8am – 4:30pm & Sat 8am – 12:30pm)