Rosalynn Carter, the former First Lady of America, famously wrote, “There are only four types of people in this world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers, Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.”
It is true that giving or receiving care is an integral part of our lives, more so when we find ourselves dealing with terminal illnesses. As patients, we depend on our caregivers, not just for physical support when our body fails us, but emotional support when our moods fail us.
The Story Begins
A caregiver finds themselves playing the role of a nurse, a cook, a cleaner, a nutritionist, a counsellor, a cheerleader – all in the same day. Caregivers are one of the pillars of our healthcare system, and it is only right to give them credit and respect due to them.
Meet one such caregiver, Mahender Saluja, from Bardhaman in West Bengal. Carcinoma struck his family twice, affecting his wife, Reena Saluja, and then his father, Kuldip Singh.
Reena was diagnosed with carcinoma ascending colon in 2019, while Kuldip was diagnosed with spindle cell neoplasm of the left lung in 2020.
Dealing with this required Mahender to acquire knowledge of the symptoms that each of them suffered from, finding the right mode of treatment for them, obtaining a second opinion on the treatment, dealing with the side-effects of the treatment… the list is inexhaustible.
While most of us would be overwhelmed in a situation like this, Mahender found the time and the energy to take on more responsibilities – protecting and caring for two immunocompromised patients. Both of them suffer from a compromised immune system and hence at a higher risk of getting infected by the coronavirus.
In spite of this, Mahender chooses to reach out to others in his neighbourhood who were affected by the lockdown. There are many travellers, homeless persons, and daily wage earners in his neighbourhood who currently have no means of livelihood during the lockdown.
Help From Here, There, Everywhere
Mahender, and a group of his friends from the Gurdwara committee at Tinkonia, GT Road, Burdwan, decided to help all such people with daily meals and servings of tea.
What started as a noble thought, with efforts and determination, grew into an enormous source of relief for the needy. The local gurudwara housed cooks who were experts in preparing langar meals. They were roped in to help in the preparation.
The local dairy vendor rose to the occasion and began to supply over 20 litres of milk every day. The word spread. Someone came through with twenty bags of wheat and someone else donated bags of lentils. All in all, this fantastic effort by a handful, began to feed over five hundred people daily.
The biggest help came from the District Magistrate of Purba Bardhaman, Vijay Bharti, who made sure they could carry on this effort without any hassles. The encouragement of the DM gave Mahender and his friends the added zeal to continue what they had started.
Since the lockdown began every morning, they begin their work by 7AM, to ensure that tea and lunch reaches every hungry person within their reach. NGO David and Goliath of Kolkata also helped them out by providing rice, lentils and potatoes required to prepare the food.
Charity Begins at Home
For Mahender, the effort does not end once he is back home each day. He has to ensure that he does not bring back any traces of infection to his household, since they are more susceptible than most.
At the gurdwara, all volunteers wear masks and maintain social distance. Once he enters his home, Mahender makes sure to change out of his clothes, deliver them straight into the washing machine, and cleanses himself with a bath. He only visits his wife and father after this. It is a crucial exercise in keeping his family safe.
The lockdown has proved a challenging time for all of us, more so for those without the financial means to survive it. At a time like this, it is admirable for a caregiver of two patients to put aside his own personal preoccupations and come out to help others in need.
Onco.com salutes Mahender and his friends for their courageous and selfless effort. We hope that all of us can be inspired to be more like these brave caregivers. For it is in giving that we receive, both joy and hope.
During these difficult times of the COVID-19 outbreak it is even more crucial that we keep the safety and wellness of our own and the health of those we love as top priority.
If you would like to share your experiences with us, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.