On Maundy Thursday, March 29th, I had the opportunity to accompany 40 members of the DIRA staff on a diaconal visit to Ilula Hospital and to the homes of some of their palliative patients. (Palliative patients are those with chronic disease.) The purpose of the patient visits was to provide them with supplies and necessities that were donated by the staff. All the donations, which included items such as clothing, blankets, sheets, sugar, and soap, were blessed at the diocese office before being taken to Ilula.
Once we arrived at the hospital we listened to a presentation about Ilula's palliative care team, which provides physical, mental, and spiritual care to its patients. Members of the team include doctors, nurses, social workers, and a pastor. Ilula Hospital is the only hospital in the Iringa Region that provides palliative care; they have 750 patients under their care, with 100 of them being in Ilula itself. The team was given a pickup truck to reach the other patients that live further from the hospital; still, due to the number of patients under their care, they must restrict their services to the Kilolo District of Iringa.
We visited four patients in their homes. The first patient was a woman with diabetes and high blood pressure who is raising her two grandsons. The boys would like to go to school but must instead work to bring money into the household. Another one of the patients was a woman with three children in school who was diagnosed with breast cancer (for which there is no treatment in Tanzania) last month. Her husband died last year of cancer. What many of these palliative patients have in common is a loss of hope. The palliative care team provides not only the medical care they need but assistance with their social circumstances (which sometimes includes financial assistance) and spiritual support.
The Maundy Thursday visits were uplifting for me. As a nurse, I know that a patient's life circumstances can affect their physical health and limit their chances for healing. I am very happy to know that wholistic care is available to Ilula patients. What a blessing they offer!
Deacon April Trout