Making them feel at home

National Cancer Institute Director speaks to Kumudini Hettiarachchi on the importance of the proposed Cancer Transit Home in alleviating the hardships faced by patients and their families. Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara

Shaven heads, bandaged faces and looks of despair. They are in for the long haul. Days, months and years and even when the hospital stay is over, regular clinic visits are a must. Family life goes awry, work cannot be attended to and schooling is disrupted especially for those coming from the outstations. Life comes to a halt.

That is why the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at Maharagama has joined hands with the CCC (Courage, Compassion and Commitment) Foundation to construct a Cancer Transit Home, the foundation stone for which was laid in June this year, in the vicinity of the institute to support and provide shelter to those who come from far away.

Dr. Karunaratne: Vision for
more day units.

“The proposed hostel will provide accommodation to about 200 patients including 50 children. While there will be 50 separate rooms so that the child and the mother can stay together in privacy, there will be dormitory facilities for other male and female patients. The hostel complex will also have a grocery, a kitchen and pantry and also a TV room,” says NCI Director Dr. Kanishka Karunaratne.

The land within the NCI premises has already been demarcated, the plans drawn up and the contractors identified, The Sunday Times understands. The Cancer Transit Home is estimated to cost Rs. 175 million and that’s what the NCI is attempting to raise to alleviate the hardship faced by the patients.

Explaining the need for the home, Dr. Karunaratne says the NCI caters to the whole country including the north and the east. “Even during the height of the war, many patients referred to the NCI from those areas are brought by the ICRC,” he says, adding that the Cancer Transit Home will benefit those who come from remote areas. “They can stay in the home where there will be facilities for cooking and relaxing and walk across daily to the institute for treatment.”

This is the concept practised in developed countries, The Sunday Times learns and Dr. Karunaratne’s vision is to open up more and more day units for daily treatment, so that patients will not need hospital admission. “This will leave ward space for critically-ill patients,” he says.

For, at the moment the wards in the 650-bed NCI are congested and sometimes patients who do not need admission are compelled to sleep on the floor because they just don’t have the facilities, the Director points out. Of the 650 beds, about 100 are taken up by children. In Sri Lanka, cancer is No.3 on the list of diseases with the highest mortality, with disease prevalence making it No. 5.

Among men the common cancers are in the oesophagus, mouth and throat while among women it is breast and cervical cancers. Children are prone to blood or haematological cancers (leukaemia).

The beautiful, curly haired three-year-old is sitting on her bed eating her breakfast, from a plate kept between her legs. There are blue marks on her small legs and hands and her hand has a cannula. “She was fine until very recently,” says her mother as the tears flow. She couldn’t eat and her stomach was getting bloated. Living in a town off Kandy, they went to the Kandy Teaching Hospital from where they were directed to Maharagama.

Now mother and daughter have been at the NCI over a month, with the little one pleading for home-cooked food. Her father and six-year-old sister are also missed. “They come whenever they can,” says the mother.

What the mother does not tell us is how wearying the hospital stay has been for her. Gradually we ferret out the information – she hardly sleeps, because her daughter is awake most of the night, missing the cuddles and hugs she usually gives her at home when she sleeps beside her.

Seated all the while or standing near the little one’s bed, her knees started swelling up and the other mothers advised her to sleep on the floor as she just couldn’t afford to fall sick herself. It is her duty to look after her daughter who is having leukaemia while her husband tries to cope with his job and running the family home, she says.

It is a similar story we hear from 49-year-old D.B. Sumathipala who is himself a patient. From Middeniya, off Walasmulla in the south, this father of three has been in hospital for sometime, again diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. His family business along with his brother in motor mechanism is at a halt and the visits from family are numerous.

It is M.V. Marimuththu from Mawathagama who succinctly points out the need for hostel facilities. A retired estate worker he was giving tuition when something went wrong with his prostate. He was passing urine frequently and also without his knowledge.

Sent to the NCI, this 67-year-old hears that an operation is out of the question but he needs to come frequently for “light allanna” (radio-therapy). He does not need to stay as an in-patient but regular visits are important. So he stays at a temple close by. “Fate is such….what to do,” he says with stoic resignation.

These are the people who would benefit from some semblance of a home away from home once the Cancer Transit Home becomes a reality.

Fund-raising activities

The charity ball, ‘Imagine 2008’ organized by the CCC Foundation to raise funds for the Cancer Transit Home will be held on November 21 at the Main Ballroom of the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

“We also intend to have a silent auction at the ball of various items donated to us, with the proceeds being credited to this fund,” says a CCC organizer.

The CCC Foundation is a not-for-profit organization which works with the Royal Children’s Hospital and The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre of Melbourne to implement best practice oncology treatment and care of children at the NCI.

Among its projects has been raising funds for a 14-bed children’s ward which was opened in August 2006. The CCC Foundation was launched five years ago in Australia to support children at the NCI and in early 2008 saw the birth of the i Lankan arm to raise funds to build CCC House.

Generous donors could make a contribution to: HSBC Account No. 001-196104-001. Cheques payable to CCC Foundation Sri Lanka could also be deposited in this account.

Top to the page  |  E-mail  |  views[1]
Other Plus Articles
Making them feel at home
Stop robbing people of their right to movement - Letter to the Editor
Fond memories of a gracious Matara couple - Letter to the Editor
The world backs Obama - Letter to the Editor
Road needs repair work - Letter to the Editor
Much-loved First Lady was a true daughter of Lanka - Appreciation
A noble teacher who taught from the heart - Appreciation
A true friend who will live on in our hearts and minds - Appreciation
His pioneering Sinhala textbooks shaped generations of students - Appreciation
Ways to lighten your light-bill burden
Romantic voyage with Dabare and Eshantha
Commonwealth commendation for Neluka’s short story
A skilful unfolding of history and romance
An artist with a gift she loves to share
A portrayal of adolescence
Being one with Jaffna
Monastic meandering
Recognising the role of literature in shaping society
Felicitating a veteran in the legal fraternity
CARM to host 5th South Asian Regional Workshop
Zonta Club III launches the ZWOT Mentorship Programme
Step into elegance and style this Christmas


Reproduction of articles permitted when used without any alterations to contents and a link to the source page.
© Copyright 2008 | Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka. All Rights Reserved.| Site best viewed in IE ver 6.0 @ 1024 x 768 resolution