Hospice Care in Thigio
Our Lady's Hospice in Thigio is changing the stereotypes and perceptions in Kenya about end of life, cancer, pain, and palliative care by helping those most at risk for little to no cost. Founded by a powerhouse sister of the Daughters of Charity in 2009, the hospice is a model in Kenya for the proper care to treat people at the end of their life. When Sister Eileen O'Callaghan arrived in Thigio from Nairobi in 2003, she never imagined that she would create a place that would be a center for the community. After seeing the large number of people suffering from cancer and other terminal illnesses in the area and witnessing first-hand the prevalent fear of death, she knew that something had to change. "There was, and still is, a large fear of people dying in their homes," she explained, in her characteristic heavy Irish accent. "Families would take loved ones out in the forest to die, alone."
When the idea for the creation of a hospice came to her, there was almost no pain relief or care facilities in the region. In May 2010, Our Lady's Hospice was opened by Sister Eileen and two other Daughters of Charity with a team of nurses and staff. Today, the campus has extended to an outpatient clinic, library, and children's daycare and offers programs for the elderly, women, teenagers, and children and adults with special needs. The hospice is one of the only places in the area, and in Kenya, that offers complete palliative care services for an affordable cost. Sister Eileen takes any patient, regardless of their religion and ability to pay. If someone is not able to afford the fees and is not on the national health insurance but still in dire need, Sister Eileen and her team find a way to give them care. However, due to limited capacity and a complete reliance on donations for funding, there are only 9 beds in the hospice with an extended waiting list.
Despite issues, there is hope going forward that the community will find a way to expand its offerings and provide more care to more people in need. The beauty of Our Lady is the simplicity of it all. Passionate people provide care to others, regardless of their religion, ethnicity, or wealth. The hospice building is a peaceful haven among the bustle of a community center that constantly has children, families, teenagers, and elderly moving rapidly in and out. With proper access to pain relief and care, people can live their days beyond pain: whether it be making it into the day room to watch the ever-popular Nigerian soap operas, being able to sit outside and feel the sun warm their skin, or eat a chocolate.
If you are interested in donating to the hospice, Sister Eileen O'Callaghan can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +254-737-499600.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Working under the close guidance of professional photographers, videographers, and writers, six students from Tufts University were paired with a mix of six photojournalism students and young professional photographers in Kenya to collaborate on a series of character-based, multimedia narratives to bring a human face to the extremity children and adults face in living with life-limiting illnesses without access to pain medications and palliative care, as well as to those working to extend palliative care in Kenya.
The hope of the project is that medical professionals, government officials, and activists in Kenya and beyond will be able to use these narratives in their campaigns to expand palliative care and break the logjams that currently prevent access to pain medications.
It is important to note that Kenya is not alone in its challenge to meet the palliative care and pain management needs of its citizens. This is a widespread issue.