Restoring Dignity

The stories of EHA’s palliative care (PC) patients truly can be heartbreaking. The PC team at Harriet Benson Memorial Hospital was asked to travel to the home of a young man in his twenties.

Shivam had been addicted to smoking and alcohol and had never been to a hospital for treatment. He had a facial wound that was so disfiguring that it was impossible to make out where his features were. He stayed away from his wife, Meera, and two young children in a dark, dirty shack with no ventilation. When the PC team arrived, Sister Saroj cajoled Shivam into coming out so they could care for him. Slowly, he crawled out, and the team saw that he was reduced to skin and bones, with a large wound oozing on his face.

The team asked Shivam if he was ready for the bath that he only received when they visited, and he nodded eagerly. Gently, the doctor and nurses scrubbed his body and rinsed his face. The team trimmed his nails and combed his hair. They asked for clean clothes for him, but there were none to be had. The team asked Meera to wash his only shirt and then instructed her on how to dress his wound to contain the bleeding and discharge, and minimize the odor. They also taught Meera how to give Shivam the pain medication they had brought, and she took it gratefully, saying that it relieved his suffering significantly.

Sister Saroj then sat next to Shivam and spoke gently into his good ear, sharing that his dignity mattered and that they would pray for his relief and comfort. Tears welled in Shivam’s eyes as he gazed at the team and silently thanked those who had served him so graciously.