Sep 3, 2008
In today’s fast-paced world family ties and relationships are often taken for granted. With nuclear families becoming a norm rather than an exception there is certainly a growing apprehension about the tendency to neglect the parents, the old and the sick. But all hope is not lost yet. It is heartening to find people who are driven by the urge to show concern for fellow humans by dedicating their lives.
For Dr Lovina Noronha, serving the terminally ill people has become a mission and passion of life. If everything goes right her fruit of labour will see the light of the day on the day of the nativity feast on September 8, 2008.
The construction of her dream project Ave Maria Centre for Palliative Care (AMCPC), the 15-bed residential hospice unit, is on the verge of completion and will be operational this month though formal inauguration of the unit is scheduled for December this year.
AMCPC is a unit of Centre for Development, Studies and Education Trust and is located in the calm, quiet and home-like environs of Vamanjoor, an ideal abode to provide succor to those suffering from incurable and life threatening diseases like last stage of cancer, dementia, Parkinson, Alzheimer, renal failure, leukemia, multiple sclerosis etc. “Death with dignity is our mail objective. Hospices do not expedite or prolong death. Rather it helps people to have a dignified end stage of life. We spiritually prepare people for their inner journey. AMCPC is a team approach to holistic care where we respond to people’s biological, psychological, social and spiritual needs”, maintains Dr Lovina, the brain behind this project.
Sacrificing a lucrative career in the land of dreams i. e America where she was the Associate Professor of MSW at Our Lady of Lake University, San Antonio in Texas, Lovina responded to her inner voice and decided to come back to her motherland which she did in 2006. Since then she has been working tirelessly to realize her long cherished dream of providing freedom from pain through her Centre for Palliative Care.
Social service was her dream from an early age after her MSW from Roshani Nilaya in 1988, she went to NIHMANS, Bangalore to do her M Phil in Psychiatric Social Work. She worked for Prajna Counselling and Chethana Counselling centres in Mangalore for few years before heading to USA on a scholarship to University of Illoinois at Urbaba Champaign from where she obtained her Ph.D.
RESPONDING TO CALL WITHIN
She worked as an Associate Professor at San Antonio and was made Director of MSW Programme and during weekends she lent her valuable services to VITAS Innovative Hospice Centre providing on call assistance to dying patients. Still she felt she wasn’t doing anything worthwhile and during a pilgrimate to Fatima in Portugal and Lourdes in 2006 she realized she needs to do something concrete back in India rather than being content with teaching in America. The exposure in VITAS had shaped her thoughts and she was resolute to return to India to establish an end-of-life care. The inner urge was so strong that soon after returning from the pilgrimate she resigned from her lucrative career in USA, sold her house and was back in India. What added urgency to her return to India was her father’s ill-health. Her father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and being a professional and being the eldest child she felt her services were needed more in India.
AMCPC is her child and being single she has been able to give undivided attention to see her dream project become a reality. “Apart from preparing people spiritually the centre also caters to solving other issues of patients like reconciling with family and other unfinished tasks. But helping them overcome death anxiety tops the priority list as it is the most painful period to the patient and the family. It also counsels the family members to cope with the situation and accept the final reality”, Lovina explains.
SERVICE TO ALL
The 15 room bed hospice unit will provide service free of cost and is open to all irrespective of the religious faiths. Of the 15 rooms 8 are single to provide the much needed privacy to the patients at end stage so that it does not affects the spirit of other terminally ill patients. “Apart from the pain and other physical discomforts, the patient and the family find it difficult to cope with the psychological, social and spiritual aspects of care-giving. Hospice aims to provide holistic comforts to the patient and the family”, asserts Lovina. The hospice unit will have rooms, a laundry unit, kitchen, and other units required to maintain 24-hour care.
In her efforts to provide a helping hand to the sick and the old Lovina has been getting valuable support from Karunashraya, a Bangalore-based NGO, engaged in similar task. It has taken the responsibility of training nurses in palliative care and also provides moral support to AMCPC. AMCPC also has an agreement with KMC, the only hospital in the district to provide palliative out-patient care services, to provide a palliative team to the care centre at Vamanjoor. When AMCPC provides residential care KMC will provide its professional service in terms of physicians and trained nurses.
In the long run the PMCPC plans to provide outreach services and also train health assistants who can be housed in homes of patients.
SERVICE THY MOTTO
Lovina has been able to garner the support of other like-minded people who are rendering her support as governing council members of AMCPC. Help also come in the form of donations from people of all hues and Lovina is confident of providing proper palliative care which is sadly overlooked in our district. “Terminally ill people have their sensory organs such as skin and hearing intact till the last stage of life. They need constant reassurance and more so need company which our hospice unit is going to fulfil”, says Lovina.
But for the unrestricted support of her parents Lovina could not have gone ahead with the project with so much dedication at such rapid strides. Though her father passed away early this year her mother Felcy Noronha has been providing her constant guidance and inspiration. Talking to them one can really feel that the mother-daughter duo share the same kind of fervor and determination to make their lives more meaningful in the service of others. May the tribe of such selfless people be on the rise!