Charity Chat: Love and Care before the Last Goodbye
By CAROLINE BRENNAN
It was after the devastating loss of her brother to cancer in 2013 that Mariana Hernández Téllez created the organization Antes de Partir.
Her brother’s battle with the disease brought Hernández Téllez to the realization that Mexico was lacking the necessary resources for the most economically challenged and vulnerable children in society, those suffering with terminal cancer.
This thought was the impetus to what has become the life-changing organization Antes de Partir is today.
Focused in its mission, and successful in its current execution, the organization, run by 90 volunteers with various expertise, currently provides free palliative care for children with terminal cancer, with the support of voluntary teams of doctors and specialists who treat and accompany the young patient and their family caretakers through the final stages of the disease.
Pulse News Mexico sat down with Francine Howard, the fundraising coordinator at the Mexico City-based Antes de Partir.
Howard explained that the crucial palliative care provided by Antes de Partir consists of medical attention (including pain medications), psychological support and thanatological support for the patient and their caretakers.
The aim, she said, is threefold: to help patient be as free from pain as possible, to accompany the family emotionally so that the main breadwinner can continue to support his/her family financially, and to provide support to siblings so that they do not fall by the wayside.
Since its founding seven years ago, Antes de Partir, which depends almost entirely on private donations, has provided more than 12,500 therapy sessions to more than 2,300 patients and their families and fulfilled 450 last wishes of dying children.
It is currently treating 88 patients, and donations of cash and goods are always welcome.
Antes de Partir has grown so significantly since its founding that Howard said this month it will celebrate the full inauguration of the very first pediatric hospice in Mexico for children with terminal cancer.
Called Casa Colibri (Hummingbird House, in English), this hospice was built for the most vulnerable children to stay in and receive the love and care they need during the final months of their lives.
Most of Antes de Partir’s patients are referred from the Moctezuma Children’s Hospital and the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital. Others find their way to the organization on their own, often from as far away as Oaxaca or Veracruz.
Aside from in-patient and out-patient services at Casa Colibri, Howard said that other modes of care included home visits and hospital visits. However, with the onset of the covid pandemic and following directives from Mexico’s Public Health Secretariat, Antes de Partir had to put their visits to the children’s hospitals on a temporary hold.
Antes de Partir’s medical director said that for the patients the organization’s “principle focus is to get an accurate diagnosis to anticipate and avoid complications, and provide quality treatment and care.”
Sadly, most of the Antes de Partir patients will never recover from their conditions, but the organization offers them a possibility to spend their last weeks and months with dignity, integrity and, most of all, love.