I had always wondered what life was like on the inside, at Karunashraya. If I had gone there as a copywriter on a project, I would go around with the team, look inside the wards, talk to some of the patients and ask for a ‘brief’ as we normally do, before we start a project.
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But then, all roads led to Karunashraya when my mother drifted into a terminal stage of cancer – far too gone even for a miracle cure. I would now get an insider’s perspective on Karunashraya – as a caregiver to a patient.
Two weeks ago, we had to rush Ma to hospital, because of a sudden blockage in the catheter. Her pulse was alarmingly low and she looked totally dazed. After four days in intensive care, a senior doctor at the hospital took me aside and explained what terminal meant in her case. And all she needed now was comfort, caring and kindness. I wondered where I would find the real meaning of these words, as I reviewed her discharge summary from the hospital.
A cousin of mine advised me on the various options I had on elevated care and I found Karunashraya on top of that list. She even asked me to speak to a friend of hers who had a mother admitted there. After speaking to him for ten minutes, I knew that this was the ‘home’ for Ma.
As her ambulance turned into the driveway at Karunashraya, I found strong positive vibrations. There was something in the air here that was comforting. It was different, with an architectural imprint that understood the meaning and purpose of housing people who were terminally ill. Large open spaces, lots of greenery, lotus ponds and atmosphere that was divine.
I could feel warmth and friendliness right from the moment my mother’s case was reviewed by their senior doctor and his team. She was given a bright, airy ward that overlooked a lotus pond.
That afternoon, I wondered how I could get her to see the sky, the birds and the fish in that pond – and I mentioned this to one of the sisters in the ward. Ma was totally bed-ridden, so she couldn’t even get into a wheelchair. Within minutes, the sister summoned help and actually wheeled her bed out near the lotus pond. I could see that this was like a breath of fresh air for her. She told me that she was now calm and peaceful … and that was one of the most reassuring things I heard that day.
Over the next few days, I saw and experienced caring that came from the heart. The doctors were always on call and the nursing and support staff did everything within their means to make my mother happy. If she wanted to savour something that was not in the diet charts, they would try real hard to make that possible.
My mother once mumbled that she wanted to listen to some bhajans and a nurse heard that as she was passing by. Before I could say ‘Hari Om’, I found a little audio gadget that played bhajans, by her bedside.
The aim of improving the quality of life of terminally ill persons was what prompted the setting up of the Bangalore Hospice Trust in 1994. The Hospice provides in-patient care to 55 persons in the center appropriately named ‘Karunashraya’ which means abode of compassion.
It provides personal care, emotional support, respite care, financial and legal planning advice, symptom control, appropriate nutrition, bereavement support and medical supplies and equipment – all this, totally free of cost.
More at: www.karunashraya.org
As I write this, Ma has slipped deeper into a blurred, hazy state. She is breathing heavily and I know that it is not long before she bids her last farewell. And I also know that bringing her to Karunashraya was the best thing I could have done for her. My mind now is not very logical and I can’t even feel the keyboard as I attempt to complete this first hand story.
So I will stop here and hope that God is waiting for her with open arms and a place that is just as comforting as Karunashraya.
It’s nearly four days since I trailed off on this article. Ma met her maker that same night. And she went peacefully, without a struggle. I said a small prayer thanking God for being kind to her and pulling her out of a misery that had weighed her down for the last 15 years.
I’m sure there will be times when I will feel that I need to be close to her. That’s when I’ll make that trip to Karunashraya and sit by the lotus pond that brought a smile to her face, when the chips were down.