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‘What living really means’

In a small peach-coloured house located in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, the Centre for Medico-Social Assistance provides patients with serious illnesses palliative care and the best possible chance to enjoy life.

At 55 years old, Myskal Mykambetova has already lived a very full life. After graduating from pedagogical school, she got married, worked in theatre and a gold mine, and she raised a large family. She is a very proud mother and grandmother.

“I was so happy when my son was born,” she says. “I am so proud that I raised my children well. I helped them choose the right path.”

“I see my grandkids. They are very well-behaved.”

But a few years ago, her life took an unexpected turn. After getting her kidney removed in 2013, a lump appeared in its place. “I recovered after surgery, but I ended up like this,” she says from her bed.  “I can’t walk.”

Mykambetova found herself in a very difficult situation, one in which many people ultimately find themselves: in need of nearly full-time care, but without a place to go, the resources to pay, or family members who are able to provide all the care needed.  “My children are working these days, so there was no one who could take care of me,” she says.

Fortunately, a few years earlier, the Kyrgyzstan Red Crescent realised that more and more people in the region were in the same predicament. So it opened the Centre for Medico-Social Assistance, which now resides inside a small, one-story peach-coloured building surrounded by white and red rose bushes in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

“Caregivers are always around me,” says Mykambetova.  “They ask me about my wishes. They are such good people. I still keep in touch with workers who left. And they also visit me sometimes.”

The nurses help patients take their medication, deal with bouts of intense pain, bring them their food, and help them stay clean, healthy and as happy as possible under the circumstances.

“When I have scary thoughts, I cry so much,” says Mykambetova. “I cry and cry and then calm down. When I’m in extreme pain and stress, I call the nurses. They listen to me and help me immensely.”

Myskal Mykambetova is one of the patients from the Medico-Social Assistance Centre located in Bishkek and run by the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan. She says the nurses and staff help her during the toughest times and they have helped her to understand what life really means.

Sharing positive thoughts

One of those nurses is 53-year-old Baktygul Karabaeva, who has been working at the facility for almost a year.  “The first month of work, it was very tough,” she says. “I would get sick myself from constantly worrying about patients.”

So Karabaeva works hard to stay positive and share that good energy with her patients.

“For any patient, sharing positive thoughts works best. I try to tell them they will feel better, but they need to be patient while the medicine does its job.”

It’s not always easy to stay cheerful. “There are times when I regret working here,” she admits. “It is especially difficult when you lose people you’ve been taking care of, because they become like your own father, mother or sibling.”

“When patients feel death is close, they feel scared. And they usually ask me to stay with them, because they say they’re scared.”

But there are also plenty of good times too. “There are also moments when we laugh. Once, I came to check a patient’s blood pressure. I was like, where is the pulse? I kept checking and absolutely no pulse. But the patient looks fine. I asked him,  ‘Hey, where is your pulse?’ And he says, ‘I don’t know.’ Then, I checked again and I noticed I didn’t have the earpiece on.”

Baktygul Karabaeva working in the centre is very tough at times, especially when they lose a patient. Despite the hardships, she tries to always focus on positive energy for the patients and herself.

‘I dream of that day’

Ultimately, nurse Karabaeva feels satisfied that she is able to provide a service that is so crucial to so many families, one that gives patients the best chance of a recovery and, in the meantime, the best possible chance to enjoy life.

“There are many people who can’t afford to go to hospitals. I think if more hospitals like this opened, many people could receive help. Even if they are terminal patients, even if they only have five years, they would have a better life.”

For Mykambetova, the centre and its nursing staff offer far more than simply medical care. The centre is a place of comfort in which she’s been able to find comfort and even joy as she reflects on her life. “When I came here, I started understanding life and what living really means,” she says.

She thinks about the past. “When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a singer. Now, I dream that one of my children or grandchildren will become a singer.”

And she thinks about the future. “If I get well and walk again, I want to bring everyone here at the centre to Issyk-Kul Lake to celebrate.”

“I dream of that day.”


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