We are suffering a terrible drought in our province; East Coast Radio started a campaign of asking people to donate bottled water to be delivered to the worst hit areas. The response has been overwhelming. Utterly amazing. 260 000 litres donated in just a few days. It is really heart-warming just how rapidly the public have responded.
But it got me thinking – people rally when there is a crisis. Human compassion flourishes when suffering stares us in the face.
So why is the public not up in arms demanding access to palliative care? Palliative care is all about relieving suffering in the ill; about quality of life. Most of us are going to get sick and yes, we are all going to die. Being ill is a very vulnerable time and I cannot think of a worse fate than suffering at the end.
A friend of mine’s husband passed away this week with a cancer. Chatting to her on the phone in his last days she was so comforted by the hospice nurse who was visiting every day. She said, “He is home. He gets to be with his 3 sons and me at home.”
How does one put a price on that?
But it does have a price. Hospices employ professional people to care for the sick and dying. Should they not earn a decent salary for that? Almost all hospices in South Africa are run as not for profit organisations with no government funding. The salaries are well below market. Should caring for the terminally ill have to come at such a personal cost? Is it fair that we expect these organisations to run on the kindness of volunteers?
I believe we are in a crisis in this country; patients including children die in excruciating pain everyday but it remains unseen. And I guess we all hope that it is not our problem and won’t be any time soon.
But yes, we all die. It is just a matter of when.