Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
My mother passed away at Bhubaneswar six months ago on December 16, 2011.
After igniting her pyre in “Swargadwar” crematorium, Puri, while waiting for the Malabhai (group of my brotherhood who performed the cremation) to come with her ashes, on the beach of Mahodadhi, my sobs had taken the following form:
(These two pages are from Dahana Daha, published on her Dwadashah)
And, while jotting down the above stanzas, I was consoling myself that the fire would immortalize my mother with the elements and make her omnipresent for me to feel her presence every moment, everywhere.
All these six months, in every moment of solitude, I have felt her presence in her omnipresent form, have taken my sleep as if in her lap, have welcomed the wee hours everyday to see how the sleeping world wakes up to her eternal call to work apace.
Working apace was my mother’s celebrated habit all her life. She was always busy in works after waking up in the wee hours till retiring around midnight. Her loving care was not limited only to the family members but also was fabulously available to the plants on our soil, to the pets in our house as well as to our relations and family friends, including the friends of the friends and to casual visitors. Everybody in our extended family, in our immediate neighborhood and of my clan in the village, was of unreserved reverence and utmost affection for her. When the news of her illness had reached them, they were as anxious for her recovery as they were in tears on getting the sad news of her demise. She was really unique. Not a moment of her life was spent in idleness. When no specific work was to be done, she was reading books and browsing through newspapers and keeping herself abreast of developments in socio-political and economic fields.
I was in USA for six months. On return, to meet her, I went to my native place Tigiria, where I had left her with my brothers before going abroad. She told me that she was having some pain in the abdomen sometimes. I brought her back to Bhubaneswar, my professional place of living. And, consulted the Capital Hospital. It is the State headquarters hospital of Orissa Government conceived originally to be what AIIMS is to government of India. But self-centric persons taking over political reign of the State since 1960, the idea was abandoned. Yet, senior specialists in different disciplines are being posted here and Professors of super-specialty departments of SCB Medical College are conducting outdoor treatment everyday in weekly rotations under orders of the Government. Under their advice I admitted my mother in the nursing home of this hospital. After a week, under their advice again, I took her to Kalinga Hospital for an endoscopic investigation. I shudder to write what happened thereafter. I am sure, had I not taken my mother to Kalinga Hospital, she would certainly have been alive as yet. Recalling that experience is so painful and frustrating that I am yet unable to find words to make a report on that. Someday, when time shall, to manageable extent, heal up the wounds of my soul, I will narrate my mother’s Kalinga Hospital phase and how brutally that shortened her life.
However, as the first six months of her passing away have passed away, I feel it necessary to say that I could have given her proper treatment if any hospital in Orissa (in hope against hope, I had to contact and consult all who mattered in respect to her health in all the government and private hospitals in my State under reference and cross-references), could have any scope for geriatric treatment.
There is no geriatric care specialties in any of its medical colleges and in the private hospitals that are making money under brand names.
The general impression is being given to the elderly / aged patient is that his/her suffering is caused by old age, sans any concern for what impact such statements from the treating physician should be putting on the psyche of the affected.
I feel, we all will fail in our duties to our elders if we fail to force the governments to put priority on establishment of geriatric hospitals with super-specialty departments addressed to diseases that are expected to afflict the parents and the grandparents in course of time.
With massive majority in Orissa perishing below the poverty line, because of mismanagement of the mineral-rich State by commission agents in power, the geriatric problems are more menacing in rural areas, where, the available medical practitioners have no training at all in geriatric care.
No Doctor in Orissa has any training in geriatric medicines. No Nurse has any training in geriatric care.
Old persons are admitted in general wards and treated generally, with open suggestions that their diseases are “old-age-diseases”, which precipitates their debacle, as they feel they cannot be cured. This has to be stopped.
My family being a big joint family, my mother was in no dearth of caring hands. Yet, I feel, had we in the family have enough awareness in geriatric problems, and orientation in physical and psychological care of the elderly, my mother could have received more defined and desirable nursing than that she got in the hospitals. So, it is necessary that the general public be made aware of geriatric necessities.
The Panchayats and urban civic bodies need be instructed and enforced to orientalize the people within their jurisdictions on locating geriatric problems, on dealing with the elderly, on how to keep them in better health.
The MLAs and MPs Local Area Development Funds are being mostly misused and cycled into their private pockets, a small part of the booty distributed amongst their followers and false bill preparers. The funds necessary for geriatric programs can be obtained officially from the LAD funds given to MLAs and MPs.
But unless geriatric hospitals are specifically established, and super-specialty departments to deal with geriatric problems are created in Medical Colleges and Doctors as well as Nurses are given orientation training in geriatric treatment and care, the general awareness cannot be sharpened on this issue.
So, instead of squandering away Orissa’s natural resources for benefit of private capitalists, even foreign industries, shouldn’t the State Government take steps to ensure better health care for elder generations, by establishing geriatric hospitals, at least one in every district?