A Touch Of Hope
Hyderabad-based Sparsh Hospice is making end-of-life care a truly endearing experience.By Lidiya Prasad
There is a time for everything, And a season for every activity under the sun, A time to be born and a time to die… When King Solomon reflected on the meaning and vanity of life through these wise words, he was not just pondering its emptiness, but on the beauty in the here and now. Sparsh Hospice, a thoughtful initiative by the Rotary Club of Banjara Hills in Hyderabad, is a not-for-profit organization going all out to help the critically ill and the elderly live out their last days in peace, and without pain. For Sparsh, ‘adding life to living’ is a calling, a divine and purposeful one.
An anesthesiologist by profession, Dr. M Subrahmanyam was moved into initiating a hospice and palliative care center, following a series of heart-wrenching encounters with terminally-ill patients in his line of work. Sparsh Hospice came into being in 2011 as a result of the combined efforts of Dr. Subrahmanyam and the Rotary Club of Banjara Hills. “Though palliative care was introduced in India in the early 1980s, it is still in its nascent stage. The number of care centers has increased over the years in urban areas, but the needs of the rural poor remain neglected. There is ample scope to offer palliative care in rural areas by integrating them in curative treatments,” Dr. Subrahmanyam shares his thoughts on the increased need for palliative care in the country.
Founded on the vision of providing quality end-of-life care to terminally-ill patients, Sparsh also seeks to offer compassionate care to those suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s and organ failures. At present, the care unit operates within a rented premise that can accommodate a maximum of 14 patients, with more preference towards cancer patients in advanced stages of their disease. However, the NGO hopes to bridge the gap between the increasing need for palliative care and its limited space when it launches its 70-bed hospice facility in Hyderabad. Telangana Cabinet Minister KT Rama Rao laid the foundation stone of the building last year; the building is being developed on land allotted by the state.
“ALTHOUGH THE NUMBER OF CARE CENTRES HAS INCREASED OVER THE YEARS IN URBAN AREAS, THE NEEDS OF THE RURAL POOR REMAIN NEGLECTED.”Dr M Subrahmanyam
Founder, Sparsh Hospice
Being the first hospice care in Telangana, Sparsh, like most burgeoning organizations, had its own struggles and challenges to leap over. Starting from finding a suitable location that could offer respite to the sick to creating awareness among the public that vastly mistook admitting their loved ones to palliative care for abdicating familial responsibilities, the NGO has taken every single hurdle by the horn and turned it around for good. What started off with 31 patients in its first year grew into a compassionate network of over a hundred patients by 2012. In 2017, Sparsh’s services were extended to a total of 327 cancer patients.
Offering solace and assistance to the terminally ill is no small feat but requires utmost dedication, empathy, and responsibility. At Sparsh, once onboard, the medical team undergoes extensive training in palliative care offered by the Department of Pain and Palliative Care at the MNJ Institute of Oncology and Regional Cancer Centre in Hyderabad. A team from the NGO, which comprises a nurse and a counselor, makes home visits every week to offer physical and mental assistance and medical examinations to patients within the comfort of their own homes. There has been no bigger testimony to their generous work than the words of renowned celebrity Chiranjeevi, who, on a visit to the hospice, said, “I am touched by the dedication of the staff and volunteers at Sparsh, and I express my support towards this wonder.”
At present, the care unit operates within rented premises that can accommodate a maximum of 14 patients, with more preference towards cancer patients in advanced stages of their disease.
The NGO recently joined hands with two renowned hospitals in Hyderabad, the Basavatarakam Indo American Cancer Hospital & Research Institute and the KIMS Bibi Cancer Hospital. Owing to the association, Sparsh has been able to cater to the needs of innumerable cancer patients by admitting them in hospice care and conducting home visits. So far, the organization has proudly served over 1,800 terminally ill patients. Of its well-wishers, celebrities like VVS Laxman and Gautami have also extended their support towards the organization through various initiatives.
Sparsh conducts regular awareness sessions on cancer and the importance of palliative care. It also offers financial aid to financially strained families to perform the last rites of a patient. The NGO hopes to partner with more nonprofit organizations in order to raise funds to educate children belonging to the families of deceased patients and to offer employment to at least one of their family members. Adding life and meaning to their days with the gentle touch of its caring hands, Sparsh Hospice hopes to continue spreading smiles on the faces of those bereft of peace and hope in the dusk of their lives.