21 years after the first time I stepped into Kerala, India to attend the Indian Association Palliative Care conference I am back in beautiful Kerala. Little did I realise that this meeting with the team in Calicut with Drs Rajagopal, Suresh Kumar, Gayatri and Chitra would be the start of an incredible adventure personally and professionally. In these intervening years I have had the amazing privilege of working with colleagues who are now friends, and students who are now leaders. I have travelled to 17 states, eaten amazing food, negotiated trains, planes and autos and revelled in the wonderful fabrics, spices and colour. I have seen palliative care seeded and grown, met and worked with inspiring pioneers, dedicated volunteers and community members, inspiring young researchers and academics and more than a few elephants and rhinos!! I have watched the monsoon enfold and see the devastation of floods, I have floated on backwaters, swum in crashing waves, visited places of incredible history and culture and climbed majestic mountains. I have seen people suffering unimaginable poverty and pain and those who fight with compassion and determination to make a difference and not leave any person abandoned. I have seen the small daily miracles of costly love. I have visited, lived, loved, and felt part of this amazing country, subcontinent and people. Thank you, India, and to the many people I have had the joy of learning from and working alongside.
The IAPC conference has grown and developed having a different character each year as it moves from state to state, from north to south, east to west. Those of us attending over the years tend to date our experiences by saying ‘was that the year of Guwahati or Delhi…no it was Pune or Hyderabad’. This year, 10 years after I was in the Scientific Committee of the first Kochi conference, I was honoured to be back on the team, this time led by dear friend Prof Chitra Venteteswaran. The venue in the beautiful Aeli Hills, Aluva had strived hard to recover after the devastating floods of 2018 and the organising committee worked hard. The theme of the conference in Feb 2019 was ‘Voices in palliative care; ensuring quality, creating solutions’ and you can find the executive summary and abstracts including our presentations in the IJPC Special Supplement April-June 2019 Volume 25 | Issue 2 (Page Nos. 169-357). So many innovations from augmenting the voices of those with different abilities, LGBTQ, tribal settings, children, elderly, humanitarian settings and mental health. There were opportunities to discuss innovative multidisciplinary working, meet experts and discuss developments such as legal changes for end of life care, new definitions for palliative care and engage the media.
It was a joy to have Cairdeas scholars Dr Peace Bagasha presenting her work on end stage renal disease and Ms Vicky from Adjumani and Peace Hospice sharing in a wonderful session on humanitarian settings… and we won 3 prizes along with Prof Julia Downing from PcERC/ICPCN!!! I shared work from Gaza and others the incredible impact the palliative care community in Kerala had in supporting those affected by the 2018 floods. IAPC central council have agreed to take this forward as a working group for India.
These south-south interactions give rich opportunities for mutual learning, exposure to an international forum and a chance for cultural exchange. Vicky has shared more in another post including our post-conference chill time by the Arabian sea. I will also share more about visits to Mizoram and updates from BCMCH.
Looking forward already to Feb 2020 when we reconvened back in Guwahati, Assam.