Hearts to Love and Hands to Serve: We Have Such Angels In Our Midst

All of us, I am sure, have heard of that famous, Albanian lady known as Mother Teresa. This Catholic nun’s admirable and tireless work in aid of the very poor and destitute people of Calcutta, India for years on end is now globally known and respected.

Her heroic work for the last, the least and the lost in our midst received worldwide attention and unprecedented publicity when she was visited by the late, charismatic and media savvy Princess Diana. Today, the selfless and commendable work of the Missionaries of Charity is supported by hundred of volunteers.

These volunteers work for a specific period at the centre in Calcutta. The volunteers are not just from India. They include foreigners from many parts of the world who have been impressed and sufficiently moved by the great and noble work being carried out in Calcutta.

It is in the long run that we can determine just who really has that sort of uncommon concern, enormous energy, unflagging enthusiasm and deep commitment to keep going at it for years on end.

To the Missionaries of Charity, volunteers are accepted and welcomed so long as they possess these amazing   qualities: “Hearts to Love and Hands to Serve “.

On the surface, these qualities seem easy enough to acquire. It is in the long run that we can determine just who really has that sort of uncommon concern, enormous energy, unflagging enthusiasm and deep commitment to keep going at it for years on end.

Commendable Work at Hospice Klang

I would like to highlight one such example in our own backyard. There are a few other examples in Malaysia, I am sure, where such exemplary service is being rendered. I have a good friend who used to volunteer at Hospice Klang for a few years. Through her and my own observations and research, I have come to respect the amazing work being carried out at Hospice Klang.

Hospice Klang was established in the fourth largest city of Malaysia and in the state of Selangor in 1995. Its principal aim was and still is to provide ‘ palliative care ‘ to the community in Klang and also in the neighbouring districts.

What exactly is palliative care? It is medical care given to patients whose disease no longer responds to curable treatments. The majority of such patients are those suffering from cancer.

This is an independent, well managed, charitable NGO which is not affiliated to any political, religious or health organisation. The NGO has a good mix of professional and lay people in its committee headed by a highly energetic, committed and visionary doctor. The chairman is a general practitioner who despite his busy practice at the clinic in Petaling Jaya still manages to find time to devote to this worthy cause. Hospice Klang also has a small, dedicated team of staff.

Principal Objectives of Hospice Klang

The principal aims of Hospice Klang’s palliative care are:
i. to alleviate the sufferings of these patients; and
ii. to enhance the quality of life for these patients for the remaining days of their lives.

These are indeed noble and worthy objectives.

In addition, Hospice Klang provides for the relief of pain and other distressing symptoms that the patients experience. The caring nursing personnel provide professional advice and support to families of patients. In this useful way, these individuals and family members are assisted and encouraged to take better care of these patients.

Who Qualifies for This Much Needed Assistance?

The service for the present time is only for patients with advanced cancer. Patients who are accepted by Hospice Klang are those who are referred by the attending doctor, family physician or specialist. A referral is necessary to ensure that all relevant medical information is readily available.

Main Services Provided at Hospice Klang

The main service is the “ Home Care “ programme. Experienced nurses and volunteers visit the homes on a regular basis to see such patients. At each visit, the patient is assessed.

The following issues are determined:
i. Is there a need for stronger medication for pain relief?
ii. Does the patient need a walking stick or a wheel chair to get around?
iii. Is a special bed needed for the bedridden?
iv. Is the family properly and fully informed about the illness?
v. How are the patient and family coping?

It is very important to keep in mind that the responsibility for taking care of these patients still rests with the family. There has to be a primary care giver at home. Hospice Klang’s responsibility is thus to provide sorely needed relief and support.

Specific Care and Treatment Provided

In general, care is needed and provided in four areas.

These are:
i. The treatment of physical symptoms. Provision is made of essential medications and consumables used to treat these patients, especially for the poor;
ii. The provision of nursing care is another, useful service. Examples – care of feeding tubes, urinary catheter, prevention and treatment of bed sores and wound dressings;
iii. Education and counselling is also an important aspect of this work. Efforts are made to explain, as clearly as possible, the diagnosis and prognosis; and
iv. Loan of relevant medical equipment such as wheel chairs, hospital beds and ripple mattresses.

All the hospice services and loan of equipment, it must be pointed out, are provided free to the patients.

Early Days of Hospice Care in Malaysia

Hospice care began in Malaysia in early 1992 in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Since then an additional seventeen centres have been set up all over Malaysia. There is now in place a Malaysian Hospice Council. The administration of MHC is entrusted to a Board of Directors headed by a chairman, four other principal office bearers and seven board members.

It is highly commendable and indeed inspiring that we have such angels in our midst.

It is thus very gratifying to see the growth of such needed hospice and palliative care centres all over the country. However, we have a long way to go service wise because the reach of such services is nowhere near such countries as Singapore and New Zealand.

Volunteer Enthusiasm and Sheer Commitment

Many of these centres are run on volunteer enthusiasm and sheer commitment to a worthy cause. As NGOs much time has also to be spent on fund raising activities to support these much needed services.

It is highly commendable and indeed inspiring that we have such angels in our midst. These individuals have the ‘ milk of human kindness ‘ in abundance in their DNA so to speak. They work quietly, calmly and with great compassion and dignity. In the process, these individuals deliver a unique and much needed service to the patients and their families.

What is truly remarkable is that these individuals do so with quiet determination and without the need for fanfare or unnecessary publicity. Neither are they doing this great and needed service on a continuing and sustained basis for public recognition, rewards or awards. That is the mark of truly selfless service.

It is, therefore, a great comfort and blessing to know that we have such angels in our midst. By their caring hearts and loving hands they have touched so many lives and provided much needed solace, relief and assistance when all seemed so lost and hopeless.

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