Hyderabad: He seldom smiles. With the right side of his body paralysed, Shaikh Raza is depressed and frustrated. There is nothing to cheer him up at the Nizamia Unani Hospital, Charminar, where he is recuperating. But of late there is the hint of a glow in his wizened face.
This 60-year-old patient from Nizambad now checks the time frequently as if he is waiting for someone. After lunch, he tries to pull himself up. He even manages a smile when Rizwana walks into the ward.
“Aap kaise hain, sir. Aaj main aapko ek dilchasp kahani sunaongi,” (How are you sir? Today I will tell you an interesting tale), she says.
Yes, a new therapy is at work in the Nizamia Hospital. Persons suffering from muscular impairment are being read stories from books to cheer them up. And the healing qualities of reading are showing results.
This novel idea is the brain child of Helping Hand Foundation (HHF), the city based NGO that deals in medicare. For the last four months, its volunteers have been providing bedside care to patients - washing faces, feeding and making their beds. Recently, when they started reading to patients, many showed interest.
“We are happy at this pleasant change and want to make it a permanent feature of our service. Besides being therapeutic, book reading is instilling confidence among patients,” says Mujtaba Hasan Askari, the president of HHF.
No entertainment is as cheap as reading and no pleasure so lasting. “I am really enjoying the story sessions,” says 62-year-old Abdul Samad. Most of the patients at Nizamia are affected by paralysis of the limbs or mouth. They can’t hold a book even if they can read. But a majority of them are illiterate and they look forward to the story sessions.
Reading aloud to persons affected by dementia is found to stimulate memory and imagination. Research shows that reading helps cut down depression and stress and reduces chances of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
“We spend 10 to 15 minutes at each bed reading from books. Sometimes two to three patients sit at one place and we read aloud,” says Khatija Fatima and Shabana. They use the books in the hospital library. Recently they even bought some books the patients would find inspiring. For these patients, discovering the good company of books is proving to be a rewarding experience.