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The 125-year-old Sacred Heart Church in Westridge, near the military barracks and established for British officers before the partition of India in 1947.
The 125-year-old Sacred Heart Church in Westridge, near the military barracks and established for British officers before the partition of India in 1947.

Haleema Fatima says she cannot wait for Eidul Azha when her three children, a son and two daughters, will come to visit her at the St Joseph Hospice for the second time this year.

Ms Fatima’s husband took a second wife when she was paralysed by an illness and left her at the hospice.

“I count the days to when my family will come to see me. My husband also comes to see me, but rarely. He married again because I cannot move. I have been living in the hospice for 10 years now,” she said.

The hospice is home to some 40 people who come from across the country and who have no one to care for them.

The out-patient department at St. Joseph’s Hospice where a girl is exercising as part of treatment for her spinal cord injury.
The out-patient department at St. Joseph’s Hospice where a girl is exercising as part of treatment for her spinal cord injury.

Nestled between a military installation and the 125-year-old Sacred Heart Church in Westridge, St Joseph’s Hospice has been taking in residents for the last 53 years without differentiation.

It is a safe haven for patients with untreatable patients who cannot care for themselves, have been rejected by their families and turned down by other hospitals.

It was started by a Catholic priest and missionary, Father O’Leary in 1962 after he saw and attended to a dying woman near the railway track, a few yards from the Sacred Heart Church. He established the hospice with Sister Dolores of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary from Spain and registered it as a non-profit organisation under the Pakistan Donor Welfare Agencies Ordinance.

Franciscan Missionaries of Mary’s Sister Dolores, who was from Spain, founded the hospice.
Franciscan Missionaries of Mary’s Sister Dolores, who was from Spain, founded the hospice.

The building, which was established on church land, was funded by a German Catholic bishop’s organisation for development cooperation, MISEREOR. The separate convent building was originally a community hall for Irish Fusilers who used the church. In the 1970s, the nursery block was built to care for abandoned children.

“The hospice was established to care for those with incurable diseases who cannot afford ordinary hospital care. The hospice started with 40 beds and was gradually extended to 80 beds,” said Sister Katherine Yousaf.

A corner set aside for prayer at the Sacred Heart Church, School and Hospice.
A corner set aside for prayer at the Sacred Heart Church, School and Hospice.

The hospice cares for physically challenged patients including the chronically ill and stroke patients under the supervision of Sister Rufina Gill.

“Our out-patient clinic is also facilitating 100 patients every day where are helped in exercising as well. We have an X-ray machine, pathological laboratory and a visiting faculty of doctors,” she said.

Administration assistant Nagina Joseph said the hospice runs on donations and that most people also donate medicines, clothes and other items.

Many residents of the hospice have not seen their families for years. An inmate of the facility, 60-year-old Mazhar Bibi said she had been living there for 12 years, since she was injured in a land sliding in Sangjani in which her spine was damaged. She has three sons and her husband who did not want to take care of her and left her in the rehabilitation centre.

Residents of the hospice sit by their beds before lunch. — Photos by Mohammad Asim
Residents of the hospice sit by their beds before lunch. — Photos by Mohammad Asim

“It is difficult to care for old and physically challenged members of the family. Everyone is busy with their lives and have no time for us,” she said.

Mohsin Ahmed, 50 says he has been living in the centre since his wife died many years ago.

“My son is in Australia and I lived with my sister and brother-in-law for some time since I was paralysed and could not care for myself. But they left me here after some time,” he said.

Mr Ahmed says his son has not visited him for many years and that he now tells people he is childless and homeless.

The hospice is also home to physically disabled children including 13-year-old Saran has lived in the hospice for 12 years where his uncle left him. He cannot even eat by himself and requires help from nurses, or nine-year-old Nisha Bibi who is always eager to learn. She is a student of class four and nurses pan on sending her to a missionary school nearby next year.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2017