Thursday 23 August 2007

Life is priceless at the Galway Hospice, so why is it cheap if you're Iraqi?


This colyoom does not often tell you what to do, but right now you need to contact the Galway Hospice.
I've just come back from a visit up there, where I met splendid people working for an extraordinary organisation.
Like most of ye, I thought a hospice would feel like a waiting room for the almost-dead, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The place feels more like a large family home than anything else. Whilst following fundraiser Michael Craig as he points out the art room, the massage area and the courtyard gardens, I hear anything but talk of illness. Alongside heated debate about football, husbands and girlfriends, there is laughter, and an atmosphere filled with life and love.
However, a massive slice of the work done by the Hospice happens outside the building, in the community. A team of nine clinically specialised nurses made 4,000 home visits last year, all over Galway City and County, because there is no better medicine than being treated at home.
This I know only too well, as some readers may recall, because at the end of May, I rushed back to England to be told by a specialist that my father had three weeks to live.
My mother, sister, brother and I stood listening intently to every word.
"You had better find a hospice." he said.
Mercifully, Dad has since defied all manner of medical science. He lives yet, has a pint and a sandwich with his old mates at the golf club twice a week, and all power to him.
But having suddenly been confronted with the urgent need for a hospice, I know that there is nothing more scary for a patient than the news that they will never see home again.
People often return home from the Galway Hospice, where all Day Care and Home Visit services are voluntarily funded. Last year we donated a staggering ¤1.1 million to our hospice, through Christmas cards, weekly draws, coffee mornings and the inaugural Galway Memorial Walk .
Michael Craig explains:
"The people of Galway built this place, and we have plans to expand. There is so much passion about the hospice in Galway, a real sense of ownership. There is barely a family in the county that has not contributed. But that's the thing with a hospice. You don't need one today, but tomorrow you need one."
So get on the case, people.
Join in the Galway Memorial Walk along the Prom! Or, failing that, make sure that you sponsor as many walkers as you can.
Register at, email them at, or simply call them on 091-770868.
Do it now, do it pronto, and I promise I won't tell you to do anything else for ages and ages.
So what price would you put on your own life? What price anybody else's?
How much do you reckon a human is worth?
According to a survey published in Wired magazine, if you break your body down into fluids, lumpy bits and germ fighting equipment, you're worth more than $45 million.
Any takers for your yummy scrummy bone marrow, a snip at $23 million, (1,000 grams @ $23,000)!
Let's start the bidding for your DNA at $9.7 million, and because I like your face, I'll throw in yer antibodies for a bargain $7.3 million.
Now, see, missis, yer organs have got a standard rate. Wouldn't be worth my while selling for less than $116,400 a lung or $91,400 a kidney.
What's that love? Have a heart you say?
Why certainly, and at a mere $57,000 each, why not take a pair and keep a spare in the fridge?
On the newspaper's front page there's a story of how a man in Offaly was killed when his car overturned.
On page 12, in the little 'World Briefing' shorts, there's an item about how thirty six Iraqis died in a car bomb that exploded just outside Baghdad.
On page 21 I read how 'hundreds' of Bangladeshis are missing, feared drowned or smothered in recent floods and mudslides.
There are 6 billion of us on the planet, and we all have to die. Even though I have read countless miles of newspaper print in my tiny life, and watched a big fat belly's worth of TV news, I'll never quite feel comfortable with the way we are dealt death by our media.
The newsworthiness of your life, and inevitable death is calculated on a sliding scale. How dark is your skin colour, and how far away from us were you when you died?
The further away you are when you die, the less your life matters. Unless you're white, say, Australian. I'm sure a school bus crash which killed seven schoolchildren in Sydney would make our headlines.
But what about the seven schoolchildren who died in Democratic Republic of Congo last week?
Possibly my impatience is misplaced. Of course the global news organisations have to prioritise, in order to make sense of tragedy. 300 might have died in a plane crash, but if two of them were Irish, the other 298 don't appear to count.
And how do we die? Well, the global morbidity rates for 2005 tell a very simple story. 20 million of us died that year because our poor old hearts couldn't push blood through our clogged arteries. 'Circulatory/pulmonary disease, they call it. Infectious and parasitic diseases took 15 million of us, while Cancer scored 7 million hits.
AIDS killed nearly 3 million, while war took almost 2 million.
Extraordinarily, car accidents killed 1.2 million. Maybe we should have to do an In-Car Safety procedure, like they have on planes, when you consider that a paltry 1,454 died in airline accidents. Sadly, 870,000 of us killed ourselves on purpose. Sharks got 4 of us, 496 less than died in extreme sexual behaviours.
The singular point about death is that each one matters as much as any other, and to each family the loss is unique.
You can put a price on neither life nor soul.
All services provided by the Galway Hospice are free of charge, but as you know, there is a price to pay for professional care, and that's where you come in.
Galway Hospice Memorial Walk:
Phone: 091-770868
email: fundraising at

1 comment:

Charlie Adley said...

Always a scribbler, never a journalist, and now I've proved it, by omitting the most important pieces of information - the date and details of the walk!
The Galway Hospice Memorial Walk will take place on Sunday 9th September 2007, commencing at 2pm from the Claddagh Hall to Blackrock and return (6.5 KM). 
Celebrate the life of a loved one, a friend, a colleague, a golfing partner, a bridge partner….. by participating in the 2007 Galway Hospice Memorial Walk.

To register please contact the Galway Hospice at (091) 770868 or email